Brown School Hosts Conference on Global Adolescent Health and Economic Strengthening

Faculty; Policy; Public Health; Social Work

The Brown School’s International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) and the SMART Africa Center recently hosted the third Global Perspectives on Adolescent Health and Economic Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa Conference.

Since 2014, this event has been a forum for innovative economic strengthening research dedicated to improving health, education and well-being outcomes of vulnerable children, adolescents, families and communities. This includes children affected by poverty, HIV/AIDS, wars and humanitarian disasters.

This year, approximately 60 scholars and practitioners from around the world—including members of the local government in Masaka District and a member of the Parliament in Uganda—gathered at the Brown School at Washington University to share their global work.

“We hope that this annual conference will serve as a key platform to contribute to Brown school’s global research portfolio and forge new research collaborations to influence policy and programming aimed at the needs of children and families in low-resource settings across the globe,” said Fred Ssewamala, founding director of ICHAD and William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor.

2018 Conference Summary

Presentations and panels included an overview of the global work at the Brown School, presented by Associate Dean for Global Strategy Carolyn Lesorogol, followed by the Founding Director of Brown School’s Center for Social DevelopmentMichael Sherraden, who presented on the policy-focused projects of CSD.

Ssewamala and Research Assistant Professor Ozge Sensoy Bahar provided an overview of the work at ICHAD and the SMART Africa Center, which was further elaborated on by a group of panelists from Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Hong Kong.

From left: Abdallah Ibrahim (University of Ghana), Julia Shu-Huah Wang (University of Hong Kong), Njeri Kagotho (Ohio State University), Apollo Kivumbi (SMART Africa-Uganda)

“Our work is not simply an academic pursuit intended to fill an intellectual curiosity, but it is research intended to find real-world solutions to developmental and health challenges faced by children growing up in poor families and communities,” explained Ssewamala. “It is work rooted in rigorous science, but also in the values of social justice and dignity for all.”

Several collaborators in the field in Sub-Saharan Africa also detailed their experiences and successes in working with research institutions, including ICHAD and SMART Africa.

Attendees received input from additional Brown School faculty, including Associate Professor Jean-Francois Trani, who conducts field research that informs policy for individuals in conflict-affected countries like Afghanistan; Professor Carolyn Lesorogol, whose work focuses on social development and community building in Kenya; and Associate Professor Lora Iannotti, whose research in Haiti, Ecuador and Kenya identifies successful nutrition interventions.

Featured speaker Hon. Michael Bukenya, a member of Uganda’s Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Health Committee, spoke about the policymaking context in Uganda. He shared the priority areas for policy, described the policy-making process, and discussed best ways to influence health and asset-building policy in his home country. Journalist Michael J. Ssali, along with Hon. Godfrey Kayemba, mayor of Masaka Town; and Hon. Jude Mbabaali, local council chairman of the Masaka District; responded to Hon. Bukenya’s remarks and discussed the role of local governments and the media in shaping the policy agenda. The panel was chaired by Gary Parker, Brown School’s associate dean for external affairs and director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute.

“From our conference discussions, it’s clear that we should continue our efforts in economic empowerment and strengthening to address poverty as a structural barrier to positive developmental and health outcomes,” Ssewamala said. “There is also a continuing need to address child and adolescent mental health services, policy and research gaps in sub-Saharan Africa. Moving forward, we need more research in this area to inform evidence-based policy and programming decisions.”

Special thanks to conference sponsors ICHAD; the Brown School Global Programs Office; and conference coordinators Fred Ssewamala, William Byansi, Hayden Blair, Charlotte Hechler and Wilberforce Tumwesige.