University News – Diversity
Research on preventing childhood anemia broadens students’ perspectives
Dec. 4, 2018 by Susan Gawlowicz Follow Susan Gawlowicz on TwitterFollow RITNEWS on TwitterRIT student Olivia Garror assesses a child for malnutrition in a refugee camp in Ghana.
As a graduate student in Ghana, Brenda Abu witnessed the toll of anemia, a condition that afflicts as many as 70 percent of the children and 45 percent of the women in that West African nation.
Her experiences convinced Abu to pursue a career researching nutrition, specifically looking for ways to reduce anemia in mothers and their children. Now as a post-doctoral fellow at RIT, she has developed a program that capitalizes on the university’s goal of offering more global and experiential learning experience for its undergraduates.
“We bounced the idea back and forth until it became something that would help students to get experience in the process of designing and conducting international research,” said Abu, who is a fellow in the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition.
It’s the first global research experience to be offered by RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition, and there are plans to apply what the students learned back in Ghana and elsewhere in the world, including Rochester.
Anemia is sometimes called the “hidden hunger.” It creeps up slowly, causing severe fatigue. But it can also affect the heart, cause pregnancy complications and stunt children’s physical and mental development. Unchecked, it causes chronic illness, even death.
The causes vary: poor diet, genetics, malaria and diarrheal infections contracted from pathogens in dirty water—all factors that deplete the body of necessary nutrients, especially iron, and weaken the immune system.
Full blown anemia is slow to develop, and early signs of the micronutrient deficiency—pale eyes and palms of the hand—can be easily missed, even by a trained eye.
What Abu is trying to do is better understand …