Malawi Bound: Chappell Fellowship Public Health Research 2013

This summer, from mid May-July, I will be conducting an ethnographic public health study in Blantyre, Malawi. The study will examine how maternal capacities—the individual level psycho-social, biologic and organizational characteristics of mothers—influence women’s hygiene and infant and young child feeding practices. I have designed the study over the past year during two independent studies with my research advisor, Professor Scott Ickes, who will carry out a concurrent study Bundibugyo, Uganda. This work is foundational to Dr. Ickes’ broader work in child nutrition interventions in Africa, and the findings from this research will inform a future NIH grant proposal and ongoing research studies in these two field sites.

The main aim of the study is to conduct formative research to examine the relationship of relevant maternal capacities with caregiver abilities to perform task-specific complementary feeding and hygiene practices (e.g. dietary diversity, hand-washing with soap, hygienic infant feeding practices). I will conduct in-depth interviews (n=20 per site, 10 mothers and 10 alt. caregivers) and focus groups (n=4). We hypothesize that mothers with greater maternal capacities will be more likely to feed their children according to recommended dietary diversity and feeding frequency and will be more likely to have a child who is free from malnutrition (not stunted, wasted, or underweight) prior to nutrition interventions, and they will also be more likely to adopt healthy hygiene behaviors and report fewer episodes of childhood diarrhea prior to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) interventions.

I will also be involved in Professor Ickes’ work on a new ready-to-use therapeutic food study once it receives ethical approval in Malawi.

I will use this blog as a platform for communicating my research process with the William & Mary community. Thanks for reading!

Landscape on the outskirts of Blantyre, Malawi, where I will be working.


  1. Jacob Kendall says:

    I’m currently looking for various funding opportunities to conduct my own research in Malawi, on aging. I’d love to speak to you more in-depth about yours, gain some valuable insights, etc.