Yale students win global health innovation competition < Pediatrics

A team of students from the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH) won the annual Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition, which took place March 14-23 on Emory University’s campus in Atlanta. It was the second time in three years that a team representing YIGH has won this prestigious event, the largest of its kind in the world.

The competition featured 31 teams from around the world, who were asked to find innovative, multidisciplinary solutions to real-world global health problems. This year, the occasion challenge was “Treating India’s Twindemic: Accelerating integrated diabetes mellitus-tuberculosis care to end TB”.

“By winning the Emory Case Competition, this talented group of Yale students, drawn from across the university, demonstrated the critical, creative and strategic thinking needed to address the world’s most pressing health challenges,” said Dr. Michael Cappello, MD. , interim director of YIGH and professor and chair of the Department of Microbial Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH). “The Yale Institute for Global Health is proud to sponsor the team’s participation in Atlanta, which we hope will further inspire their continued efforts to make the world a better place.”

“This win makes two in the last three years, so it’s very significant,” added YIGH Deputy Director Michael Skonieczny. “We are really excited and proud of what the team has achieved. The case competition is a great place for students to work together. The value is that this is relevant training for them. What excites me is the kind of experience and skills it builds.”

The winning YIGH team, which won $6,000 in first prize, consisted of Lindsay Walker, MSN ’26, team captain; William Zhang, MPH ’24 (chronic disease epidemiology); Felicia Annan-Mills, MPH ’25 (social and behavioral sciences); Noemi Guerra, BS ’24; and Teimur Kayani, MD ’24, MPH ’25 (chronic disease epidemiology).

By winning the Emory Case Competition, this talented group of Yale students, drawn from across the university, demonstrated the critical, creative and strategic thinking needed to address the world’s most pressing health challenges.

Dr. Michael Cappello, MD, Interim Director of YIGH

Their solution—called Akanksha, a Sanskrit word meaning ambition—focused on screening for latent TB among diabetic populations in India and empowering community health workers.

Screening will be done by the clinic’s health workers, using a TB antigen skin test (TBST), which Walker said is more reliable than the PPD tuberculin skin test (TST) and less expensive and less prone to instability than the gamma interferon release assay. (IGRA) blood tests. (The Serum Institute of India has developed its own version of TBST, called Cy-TB.)

Walker said that during their research, the team was inspired by community health workers in India, called accredited social health activists (ASHAs). “These workers travel to remote locations, visit people in their homes and work with clinics to provide screening and health education,” she said. “They are historically underpaid and there have been recent news stories highlighting their struggle for pay raises and recognition as government employees.”

The Yale team chose to implement their project in the city of Guntur, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, because of its dedicated ASHA community, government clinics with comprehensive primary health care services, and growing urban population. Their plan would provide mobile phones to ASHAs; reinforce worker training on a government patient data mobile app and a TB education app, train workers to read TBSTs and engage them in TB treatment initiation and adherence.

In addition, “We matched ASHA’s income to the required level with our funding,” Walker said. “We created a detailed budget and cost-benefit analysis, and presented our presentation in a concise and compelling manner.”

Kayani further added: Once a patient tests positive for latent TB, ASHAs would administer a once-weekly regimen for 12 weeks of isoniazid and rifapentine, a recently developed drug combination that he said is much more patient-friendly than traditional once-a-day methods. isoniazid or rifampin for 3-4 months. The ASHAs would then conduct live virtual supervised therapy over the phones provided by the medication adherence team through Ni-kshay, a government-sponsored TB tracking and education app.

From the Yale community, Walker cited the help of Jason Abaluck, professor of economics in the School of Management, to help the team account and present a cost-benefit analysis; and Dr. Luke Davis, MD, YSPH associate professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases), who shared his insights into developing TBST and his growing interest in its use in high-risk settings.

The Yale team advanced to the Emory competition by triumphing over four other teams on February 17 at the YIGH Global Health Competition. There, the students had to come up with innovative solutions for managing non-communicable diseases in the midst of the current humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Their winning solution, Cooling as a Solution (CaaS), focused on deploying EcoFrost coolers for transporting diabetes medications and Frio Wallets to help maintain insulin temperature for up to four weeks. In both competitions, teamwork was paramount.

“A key element of the Yale team’s success, I believe, was team cohesion and the ability to utilize and complement our individual strengths,” Zhang said. “Both at the YIGH Global Health Competition and at Emory, our team adopted a lean and iterative ideation process, kept fast under time pressure, and were extremely adept at thinking on the spot in Q&A. I’m proud that everyone challenged themselves, that we learned and had fun, and that we made lasting connections through this opportunity.”

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