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The effect of nutrition, food safety and hygiene, and diarrhoea on child growth and development outcomes in Mali

Institute of Applied Health Research

Birmingham United Kingdom Epidemiology Health Informatics Education Food Sciences

About the Project

Ambitious and enthusiastic candidates are invited for two to three PhDs (self-funded or through an external fellow-ship application), starting any time between September 2020 and June 2021 (several intake times possible in this period). Part-time PhDs can be accommodated over a longer time-frame for UK students only.

Diarrhoea and stunting are leading causes of under-five morbidity and mortality in low and middle income countries (LMIC). Certain Sub-Saharan African countries, including Mali, suffer highest burdens of under-five morbidity and mortality.

Given the large role of enteric infection in causing diarrhoea, water, sanitation, and hygiene systems have been thoroughly explored for the abatement of under-five diarrhoea with mixed results, and are demanding on resources and budgets. As a lower cost alternative, novel integrated community interventions to improve complementary food safety, hygiene, and nutrition, and safer play practices, particularly among weaning age children, have been postulated, but require further exploration.

Through a large MRC funded cluster randomised controlled trial, we are examining the impact of a mother and community targeted behavioural intervention to improve complementary food safety, hygiene, nutrition, and improved safe child play practices in urban and rural Mali. The intervention will be evaluated through both quantitative means, such as measurements of indicators of malnutrition, diarrhoea, food, water and stool sampling to detect enteric infection; and qualitative means, such as ethnographies and focus group discussions.

The study will take place in villages and cities across three of Mali’s provinces - 120 communities in the southern secure area of the country. The study is led by the University of Birmingham and Malian Governmental and Medical University, and in collaboration with international organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, and WaterAid, and other British academic partners (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Loughborough University).

PhD Project
PhDs will examine the existing and intervention related effect of nutrition, food safety and hygiene, child play/care practices and diarrhoea/morbidity on growth and development outcomes of children under-five in Mali. Various aspects of local context, with special attention to the differences between urban and rural settings will be important. For candidates starting in 2020, a component may also involve the development of play and nutrition/feeding interventions to improve outcomes which will then be evaluated through the trial study design. This PhD can be mixed methods, additionally analysing qualitative data to better understand the context.

PhD students may be based in Mali, other LMIC or the UK; those not based in Mali may be able to travel to Mali to take part in developing the project and data collection (subject to funding availability).

The PhD can be suited to those pursuing a career research or programming in global public health nutrition, maternal and child health and development, education, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), community assets and development (including sociology), behaviour change psychology.

The ideal candidate will have a Masters degree in in Public Health (or related, e.g. epidemiology, nutrition, WASH, psychology, etc.), or a clinical degree (e.g. MBBS or BSN). The student needs be comfortable with statistical methods for quantitative analysis. Some proficiency in written and spoken French, familiarity with statistics software (such as STATA or R), a peer-reviewed academic publication, experience/knowledge of qualitative methodologies, and experience working in low and middle-income countries, are desirable.

How to apply
Applications should be directed to . To apply, please send:
• A Detailed CV, including your nationality and country of birth;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities;
• Copies of your degree transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

Applicants will be required to attend an interview. This can be conducted by telephone or Skype

Funding Notes

Self Funded (or to support a strong candidate for fellowship application to external funding bodies). PhD fieldwork funds are provided through the project.

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