The Young Research Group seeks to better understand the determinants of healthy mothers and children across diverse geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic contexts. Our group supports diversity in representation, creativity in thinking, and collaborative outreach in our efforts to address barriers to good health.


Household water insecurity

The ability to measure household food insecurity has been transformative, but our understanding of both how to measure household-level water insecurity and what its consequences are is in its early days. We are therefore exploring household water insecurity quantitatively and qualitatively in a number of sites around the world, and have discovered there are surprising and far-reaching ways that water insecurity shapes well-being. We have also collaborated with dozens of scholars across the globe to create a cross-culturally validated way of quantifying experiences with access to and use of water. See more at the HWISE website.

Perceived consequences of water insecurity in the first 1,000 days among women in western Kenya by domain; ordered by decreasing salience. From our article in Glob Public Health. 2019 May; 14(5): 649–662, doi: 10.1080/17441692.2018.1521861

Food insecurity

What is the role of food insecurity in adverse maternal and child health and nutritional outcomes, especially in the context of HIV? What are the types of effects, the magnitude of effects, and which of these are modifiable? How can food insecurity be mitigated amongst women and children in low-resource settings? To answer these questions we have observational and intervention studies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

A conceptual framework that guides our lab’s understanding of the bidirectional links between food insecurity and HIV/AIDS. From our paper in Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.012070


Is pica an adaptive response to health challenges? What is the relationship between pica and iron deficiency? In our data from East Africa, North America, and elsewhere, we know that non-food cravings and iron deficiency are associated, but the nature of the relationship is unclear. We are using a variety of in vitro and in vivo animal studies, as well as observational cohorts, to ascertain the mechanisms underlying this relationship, and to test the two major physiological hypotheses about pica: supplementation and detoxification.

Consumed earths may protect against toxins and pathogens by (a) strengthening the mucosal layer by binding with mucin and/or stimulating mucin production, thereby reducing the permeability of the gut wall, and (b) binding to toxins and pathogens directly, thereby rendering them unabsorbable by the gut. From our paper in Ann Rev Nutr doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.012809.104713