CFAR SBS Core Member Highlight: Joy Noel Baumgartner, PhD, MSSW

Dr. Joy Noel Baumgartner has 20 years of experience working in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) to strengthen the delivery of HIV, reproductive health, maternal and child health (MCH), and mental health services. As Associate Professor of Global Health and the Director of the Duke Global Health Institute’s Evidence Lab, she uses this experience to lead their mission to conduct research in LMICs with local partners to inform evidence-based programs and interventions. Her current research is the perfect example of this work in action.

Current Research

“This is our in-between opportunity to get adolescents engaged with health services.” – Dr. Baumgartner

Dr. Baumgartner and her co-principal investigator, Dr. Sylvia Kaaya at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, were recently awarded a NIH R01 research grant titled ‘Adolescent Wellness Visits to reduce health risks in Tanzania’ that integrates adolescent primary healthcare with local schools. Dr. Baumgartner says the typical model makes available great adolescent-friendly reproductive health services in clinics with the expectation that adolescents will come as needed. However, she said that there is robust literature indicating that adolescents are actually underutilizing these services, and their needs are broader than reproductive health. This project aims to flip the model, focus on the whole adolescent, and go to them instead.

“In Tanzania, similar to other LMICs, they follow WHO guidelines where the well-child visit only goes through age 5 and then there’s nothing routine until maybe a young adolescent gets pregnant,” said Dr. Baumgartner. “This is our in-between opportunity to get adolescents engaged with preventative health services.” When Tanzanian students are in their last year of primary school—around age 13—they will travel with their classmates and a teacher or counselor to the local clinic for a check-up consisting of screenings for nutritional status, vision, dental health, and mental health, receipt of information about puberty and reproductive health, and HIV testing as indicated. Then the group will return to school. “It is almost like a field trip for them” Dr. Baumgartner said. During pilot testing of this model, the youth, parents, and schools loved it. The model was highly accepted because it empowered them to know about their health.

Dr. Baumgartner noted that development for this project took many years because they wanted to create a sustainable program that would be embedded into the national guidelines and standards of care. This program received over a dozen letters of approval from various levels of both the education and health sectors, indicating alignment with government of Tanzania priorities.

The project’s co-PI, Dr. Kaaya, is Professor of Psychiatry and Mental Health, and former dean of the School of Medicine at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, has vast experience working with adolescents. Her leadership and strong team of junior co-investigators—who have a background in organization, facilitation, and advocacy for adolescents—will be doing the critical on-the-ground work and are the driving factors to this project’s success.

SBS Core Assistance

“People know their topic and interventions really well but [as they’re writing] sometimes need help with framing and layout to be competitive.” – Dr. Baumgartner.

Dr. Baumgartner says she is certain that she received this R01 award due to her Duke CFAR pilot award. She also took advantage of the SBS Core’s peer review services for her pilot grant application and her new R01. She credits multiple core members, including Melissa Watt and Brandon Knettel, for their very thorough peer reviews and examples from other recently-funded grants that were helpful in framing concepts and streamlining layouts. “People know their topic and interventions really well but [as they’re writing] sometimes need help with framing and layout to be competitive,” said Dr. Baumgartner.

The SBS Core offers a wealth of services to our members and all HIV researchers at Duke, including early planning and grant preparation consultations; peer reviews of grants, manuscripts, conference presentations, etc.; post-award consultations; training and capacity building; networking and community engagement; mentoring; and dissemination of study findings and other manuscript preparation. Click here to send a request for any of these services.