Research Projects

Kenyan group of villages & stakeholders sitting outside meeting - Carrie Waterman

Current projects include:


Lao Thiamine Study iconLao Thiamine Study

Thiamine (vitamin B1) is an essential micronutrient and thiamine deficiency can lead to a broad spectrum of clinical abnormalities, referred to as thiamine deficiency disorders (TDD), of which the classic forms of beriberi in adults are best known. We plan to implement a hospital- and community-based study in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. The proposed study will include a group of hospitalized children 21 days to <12 months of age who are diagnosed with TDD-compatible symptoms. Based on the infants’ response to thiamine administration, children will be defined as either thiamine responsive disorder cases or non-responders. A community-based comparison group of infants in the same age range will be included in the study to serve as a control group for identification of potential risk factors. 

Contact: Sonja Y Hess, Ph.D.

Mazira LogoMazira Project

Infant diets in resource-poor settings are often characterized by low diversity and poor nutrient quality, yet nutrient requirements for infants are high to meet the demands of rapid growth and development. Animal source foods, such as eggs, are nutrient-dense food sources that may improve diet quality for rapidly growing infants. The objective of the Mazira Project is to evaluate the effect of eggs introduced early in the complementary feeding period, starting when infants are 6-9 months of age, on linear growth and early child development, as well as to explore the potential metabolic pathways leading to growth, development, and health in young children.

Contact: Christine P. Stewart, Ph.D.


ChildMicronutrient Intervention Modeling (MINIMOD) project

The objective of this project is to develop and apply tools to plan and more efficiently manage national and sub-national micronutrient intervention programs in developing countries. The tools combine dietary modeling methods and program cost estimates to predict the most cost-effective combinations of programs over space and time to meet selected objectives. Model development and application to policy processes are underway in Cameroon and Ethiopia.

Contact: Reina Engle-Stone, Ph.D.


Woman feeding child.Breast Milk, Gut Microbiome and Immunity (BMMI) Project

The Breast Milk, Gut Microbiome and Immunity (BMMI) Project is designed to identify new and effective ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disorders arising from abnormal postnatal development of the gut microbiome.  The BMMI Project seeks to discover novel dietary and microbial therapeutics, targeting infants living in developing countries with rampant malnutrition.  The ultimate goal of the project is to improve the healthy growth of infants and children by identifying and validating new pre- and probiotics that support, repair, or recapitulate metabolic functions carried out by the gut microbiomes.

Contact: Kathryn Dewey, Ph.D.


A childInternational Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (iLiNS) Project

The International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (iLiNS) Project is a research collaboration that grew out of a shared commitment to accelerate progress in preventing malnutrition. We are conducting research projects in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Malawi.  Previous work with lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) in Ghana and Malawi indicated that such supplements could improve child growth and development in low-income populations. The iLiNS Project was designed to build on the previous work. We will evaluate the efficacy of new and less costly formulations, study the impact of providing LNS to pregnant and lactating women, and explore the economic dimensions of LNS used to prevent malnutrition.

Contact: Kathryn Dewey, Ph.D.


Two women and a child, Lao Zinc logoLao Zinc Study

The Lao Zinc study is a community-based, double-blind, randomized controlled trial to determine the optimal method for delivering zinc to young children, both for the prevention of zinc deficiency and the treatment of diarrhea. The impact of a new zinc-containing micronutrient powder (MNP) formulation will be compared with daily preventive zinc supplementation and therapeutic zinc supplementation during diarrhea episodes both using dispersible tablets. The impact on young children’s growth, diarrhea, acute lower respiratory infections and zinc status will be assessed.

Contact: Sonja Hess, Ph.D.


A houseLipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (LNS) Phytase Project

The LNS Phytase Project is designed to evaluate the efficacy of exogenous phytase added to small quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements (SQ-LNS) on the fractional and total absorption of zinc among young children in The Gambia. The study is a double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial, designed to permit within-child comparisons of zinc absorption from SQ-LNS, with or without exogenous phytase, by using the zinc triple stable-isotope ratio tracer technique.

Contact: K. Ryan Wessells, Ph.D.


Man conducting researchMonitoring and evaluation of large-scale food fortification in Cameroon

Previous research by UC Davis and HKI Cameroon documented the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies and consumption of potentially fortifiable staple foods in a national sample of women and young children in Cameroon, prior to implementation of a mandatory program to fortify refined vegetable oil with vitamin A and wheat flour with several vitamins and minerals. Post-fortification, a survey of urban areas found that unfortified samples of oil and wheat flour were present in households and markets, suggesting that efforts are needed to strengthen implementation of the program. Building upon this work, the current project aims to assess the implementation and reach of Cameroon’s food fortification program. The project will include monitoring of fortification activities at the industry level (factories and imported products) and measurement of the reach and micronutrient content of fortified products at the market and household level in sentinel sites throughout the country.

Contact: Reina Engle-Stone, Ph.D.


A woman talking and taking notesNiger Maternal Nutrition (NiMaNu) Project

In partnership with two non-governmental public health organizations and the Niger Ministry of Health, researchers of the IGN aim to assess the nutritional and health status of pregnant women in the Zinder region of Niger and to understand their knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) related to health and nutrition during pregnancy pre- and post-intervention.  Based on findings of formative research, an optimization strategy was developed to increase the coverage and quality of antenatal care services.  

Contact: Sonja Hess, Ph.D.


A woman taking notes and talkingNiger Optifood Project

For many women in sub-Saharan Africa it is particularly challenging to meet their nutrient requirements during pregnancy and lactation due to increased physiological requirements and a lack of resources. The primary objective of this study is to assess the ability of pregnant and breast-feeding women to meet their macro- and micronutrient requirements from locally available foods, considering household resource constraints and seasonal variation in food availability.

Contact: Sonja Y. Hess, Ph.D.


Two woman and a childRang-Din Nutrition Study (RDNS) 

The Rang-Din Nutrition Study (RDNS) is an effectiveness study in Bangladesh evaluating the impact of lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) on preventing stunting and enhancing motor and cognitive development in young children, and improving the health and nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women.  The study will also assess cost and cost‐effectiveness of home fortification approaches, identify and measure some of the household and public economic benefits associated with LNS (e.g., changes in health care costs and morbidity patterns of infants and their mothers) and identify barriers and facilitators to LNS delivery that are important for potential implementation in large scale programs.

Contact: Kathryn Dewey, Ph.D.


Women and children in a classroomStepping Stones: Scaling early childhood development at Anganwadi Centers in India

The Stepping Stones Project will integrate and enhance existing Anganwadi Programs under India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme that employ local community based workers providing supplementary nutrition, preschool education, nutrition and health education and referral services to pregnant women, mothers, infants and children ages 1-6 years. This Saving Brains innovation aims to integrate and enhance existing Anganwadi Program (AWP) with local resources in private education sectors to create a higher impact program for early childhood development of indigenous tribal groups.

The project will create enhanced curriculum for early childhood development  and use a tablet/PC-based smart register to enable staff to track child progress and optimize health service utilization. The public-private partnership will also spur collaboration between AWP centers and private preschools to guarantee sustainable training and capacity enhancement. Partnerships with community colleges and medical schools will enable continuous quality improvement and training. The project aims for improvement on cognitive and behavioral measures for children in the intervention group compared to control group and to increase current attendance of children at Anganwadi Centers from 30% to at least 50%.

Contact: Beth Prado, Ph.D.


Wash articleWASH Benefits

The WASH Benefits Study will provide rigorous evidence on the health and developmental benefits of water quality, sanitation, handwashing, and nutritional interventions during the first years of life. The study includes two, cluster-randomized controlled trials to measure the impact of intervention among newborn infants in rural Bangladesh and Kenya. The studies are large in scope (> 5,000 newborns per country) and will measure primary outcomes after two years of intervention.

Contact: Christine Stewart, Ph.D.


Recently Completed Projects

Women and children with signsAlive and Thrive

Alive & Thrive (A&T) is a 6-year initiative (2009-2014) to improve infant and young child nutrition by increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding and improving complementary feeding practices. A&T aims to reach more than 16 million children under 2 years old in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam.  The objectives of A&T are to create delivery models in three distinct learning environments that improve IYCF practices at scale and can be replicated in other parts of the world; document impact, cost, and cost-effectiveness of IYCF interventions; foster innovation through a grants program; and disseminate learnings from A&T models, innovations, operations research, and evaluations.  UC Davis oversees the small grants program and provides technical support.

Contact: Kathryn Dewey, Ph.D.


Woman checking height of childContribution of inherited blood disorders to anemia among children in urban Cameroon

Information on the etiology of anemia in a population is necessary to construct public health programs that permit appropriate treatment of the affected individuals. Inherited blood disorders are assumed to be common in sub-Saharan Africa, but only limited data are available on the prevalence of these conditions and the extent to which they contribute to anemia. This project aims to assess the prevalence of selected hemoglobin variants (primarily Hb S, or sickle cell trait) and alpha-thalassemia, and the relationship of these conditions with hemoglobin concentrations, anemia, and indicators of micronutrient status. The study population is drawn from a representative survey of children 1-4 years of age in Yaoundé and Douala, Cameroon.

Contact: Reina Engle-Stone, Ph.D.



Mother and a childEarly Lactation Success (ELS) Study 

The Early Lactation Success (ELS) study collected data from a multi-ethnic, predominantly low-income cohort of mother-infant pairs from Sacramento, CA to understand variation in the ability of first-time mothers to successfully establish exclusive breastfeeding and to avoid breastfeeding problems. The underlying premise of the study was that the duration of exclusive breastfeeding is determined not only by psychosocial factors (such as the mother’s motivation to breastfeed and social support for breastfeeding), but by the mother’s breastfeeding experience during the first week postpartum. The study focused on first-time mothers because the incidence of early lactation difficulties is greater in this group.


Child drinking milkPrevention of Overfeeding During Infancy (PODI) Project

The Prevention of Overfeeding During Infancy (PODI) Project is studying infants from the Sacramento area and has two main objectives.  First, the study aims to evaluate the impact on breastmilk or formula intake when an infant is given greater control over the amount consumed when feeding from a bottle.  This will be accomplished via the use of a novel nipple that mimics (functionally) the nipple of a human breast and allows the infant to self-regulate milk flow.  The second objective of the study is to determine the relationship between parental feeding styles and infant intake. The results of the study will provide important evidence regarding the reasons for the difference in intake between formula-fed and breastfed infants, which is critical for designing effective interventions to reduce overfeeding during infancy and subsequent child obesity.

Contact: Kathryn Dewey, Ph.D.