HOBI Faculty Member Publishes Study in Pan African Medical Journal

Alyson Young, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Health Outcomes & Biomedical Informatics (HOBI) and UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP), was part of a research team that published an article on the cultural influences behind cholera transmission in Cameroon in the December 15, 2017 issue of Pan African Medical Journal.

The article, “Cultural influences behind cholera transmission in the Far North Region, Republic of Cameroon,” investigated the cultural practices and beliefs that were likely to contribute to the exposure to and spread of cholera in this central African country, which experienced serious cholera outbreaks in 2009 and 2010. The Far North is one of the most culturally diverse regions in Cameroon, with more than 50 ethnic groups.

The qualitative study is based on Ph.D. research conducted by the principal author (Ngwa), and involved analyses of interviews and group discussions held with 10 groups, each comprised of nine to 12 residents, in the Far North region of Cameroon. The researchers found that many participants had limited scientific knowledge about the cause and transmission of cholera. Moreover, the team determined that other cultural factors, such as multiple languages, a mistrust of message sources, and favorable beliefs about traditional medicine, are likely to play important roles in the exposure to and spread of cholera in this region.

“Understanding the cultural context and individual and community perceptions of risk and disease may help public health agencies in response to outbreak prevention and control,” the researchers concluded.

Young, who works with the Texas External Quality Review Organization (EQRO) at ICHP, provided guidance on the analysis and interpretation of the qualitative data for the study. She got involved in the project because of her expertise in health disparity research in rural African communities and previous work on ethnomedical beliefs and health systems in Tanzania. Her research at ICHP focuses on social disparities in maternal and child health, caregiver decisions about young child care, and improving access to health services in underserved and marginalized populations.

Other scientists on the team include principal author Moise Chi Ngwa, Ph.D., an assistant scientist in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore; Song Liang, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Global Health at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF; Jason Blackburn, Ph.D., director and associate professor of the Spatial Epidemiology & Ecology Research Laboratory in the Department of Geography and the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF; Arabi Mouhaman, a Ph.D. candidate and senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Higher Institute of the Sahel, University of Maroua, Cameroon, and a visiting scholar in the Department of Geography at the Ohio State University; and John Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D., MPH, professor of medicine in the College of Medicine and director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF.