Dr. Monica Swahn, a professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, has been selected for a Fulbright Fellowship to build on her research into the harms caused by alcohol use among youth in Uganda.
Makerere University’s School of Public Health will host Swahn, who will assist Dr. Nazarius Tumwesigye, Chair of their Department of Biostatistics, in the creation of a research center focused on alcohol and drug abuse issues.
The East African nation of Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, one of the highest rates of per capita consumption of alcohol, and high rates of HIV/AIDS. Direct marketing (including free samples) and sales of alcohol to underage youth is not uncommon. Swahn has traveled to Uganda regularly since 2011 to conduct research into alcohol marketing and its relationship to gender-based violence, unsafe sex and HIV/AIDS transmission.
To date, her work in Uganda has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and focused on researching methods to reduce underage drinking and related harm to health. The NIH-funded work will culminate in the development of an alcohol-counter marketing campaign designed to delay youth in their initiation with alcohol and to reduce alcohol-related HIV transmissions among young people in the capital of Kampala.
Swahn’s goals during the fellowship include training and mentoring faculty and students at Makerere in alcohol epidemiology; methods and research approaches, generating interest and visibility for alcohol-related research, which is scarce in East Africa; supporting efforts to win grants to conduct research; and conducting community-based epidemiological research primarily in Kampala.
National and local government officials have expressed an interest and a need for the empirical data generated by such research to inform their work to develop policies that can improve their efforts to reduce the toll of AIDS on Uganda.
Along with Makerere University, Swahn will partner with established non-governmental organizations such as Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) and the Twekembe Slum Project (TSP), which work to address the health and educational needs of impoverished children in Kampala.
The Fulbright Scholar program is operated by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The prestigious awards are granted through a competitive process and provide travel funds and a stipend.
Swahn’s award is a flex fellowship, which will allow her to spend extended periods in Uganda to focus on this work starting this fall and through July 2018.