Active Genetics Goes Global

Tata Trusts & University of California San Diego partner to establish Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society (TIAGS) —

UC San Diego has received a $70 million commitment from the India-based philanthropic Tata Trusts, which includes the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Tata Education and Development Trust, to establish the Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society (TIAGS), a collaborative partnership between the university and research operations in India. UC San Diego, which will be home to the lead unit of the institute (TIAGS-UC San Diego), will receive $35 million in funding, while the remainder of the committed funds is anticipated to support a complementary research enterprise in India (TIAGS-India). … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Anita Raj, PhD

Anita Raj, PhD

Anita Raj, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Global Public Health, is one of the UC San Diego researchers who will contribute to the TIAGS.

Modern Family Planning in India

When both genders participate, contraceptive practices improve while sexual violence declines —

At roughly 1.3 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world, but will likely surpass China as the most populous nation within six years, reaching 1.7 billion by 2050, according to United Nations estimates.

As such, experts say family planning services in India carry extra imperative. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have published a rare analysis on one such program, reporting that the program’s comparatively rare combination of increased male engagement and gender-equity counseling with both husband and wife improved contraceptive practices and reduced marital sexual violence among married couples in rural India. The intervention involved rural private providers partnering with the public health system to reach men as well as couples.

The findings are published in the May 11, 2016 online issue of PLOS ONE. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Anita Raj

Anita Raj, PhD

The first author of the study is Anita Raj, PhD, director of UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Center on Gender Equity and Health.

Dr. Raj is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Global Public Health.

Child Brides at Funerals

Young maternal age and quick pregnancies linked to high infant mortality in South Asia

Having children early and in rapid succession are major factors fueling high infant mortality rates in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan where one in 14 births to young mothers ends with the death of the child within the first year, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

No Sons Linked to Lower Contraception Use in Nepal

While poverty and under-education continue to dampen contraception use in Nepal, exacerbating the country’s efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality rates, researchers say another, more surprising factor may be more intractable: Deeply held cultural preferences for sons over daughters. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Anita RajFirst author Anita Raj, PhD, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health and a Senior Fellow in the UC San Diego Center on Global Justice.

She focuses her global public health research on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and substance misuse and abuse.

Funds from the Lucile and David Packard Foundation’s Population and Reproductive Health program support Dr. Raj’s study, Assessment of Girl Child Marriage and Adolescent Motherhood and Its Public Health Impact in South Asia.

The coauthors of the Nepal study report are three Division of Global Public Health colleagues: medical student Rohan J. Vilms, postdoctoral researcher Lotus McDougal and professor Jay G. Silverman, PhD.

Raj and Silverman are faculty members and Lotus McDougal is a graduate of the Global Health track of the UC San Diego – San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health.

Vilms is a second-year medical student who had the opportunity to take part in the Nepal study via a summer internship supported by UC San Diego’s National Institutes of Health Short-Term Research Training Grant for medical students.

His undergraduate degree is from the Global Health and Development track of the Human Biology program at Stanford University.

Rohan J. Vilms

Medical student Rohan J. Vilms

Vilms was born in the United States and spent his childhood years from age 3 to age 12 in India. Living in the two nations shaped his perceptions of disparities in standard of living and health outcomes because of social circumstances, he said.

He has particular concern for reproductive health.

“I think working for reproductive health is extremely important,” he said. “The standard of what we can do is not what we are doing. There are preventable deaths — infant and maternal mortality. That these still occur is a travesty.”

The Nepal project also attracted him because it gave him a chance to work with data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), a respected source of information from United States-conducted fieldwork around the world. The DHS database includes reproductive health information.

In working with the DHS data, he said, postdoctoral researcher Lotus McDougal gave him invaluable coaching and expert help.

Vilms makes the most of every opportunity to work and study in global public health. “I have had a lot of mentors,” he said. “I’m learning a lot.”

He has taken Dr. Richard Garfein’s San Quintin Field Course (FPM 244/MED248) three times, the maximum possible in the first two years of medical school.

Dr. Richard Garfein

Dr. Richard Garfein, professor in the Division of Global Public Health.

The San Quintin Field Course is associated with project VIIDAI: Viaje Interinstitucional de Integracion, Docente, Asistencia y de Investigacion (Retreat for Educational Integration, Assistance and Investigation), first conducted by Tijuana’s Universidad Autonoma de Baja California School of Medicine in 1981.

UCSD’s San Quintin Field Course is a School of Medicine elective built around VIIDAI’s academic and research field trips to rural regions in Baja California and Sonora. Students have the opportunity for hands-on clinical experience as well as public health research and practice. The course includes a required 3-day trip to the town of San Quintin on the west coast of Baja California.

Vilms hopes to arrange a global public health research year between his third and fourth years of medical school. Beyond that, his aspiration is to work in a setting where he can make a difference in health and in social justice.

In February, he presented data from the Nepal study as lead author of a poster presentation at the multidisciplinary Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

He said he couldn’t speak highly enough about the Global Public Health division faculty members and graduate students he has worked with.

Of Vilms and his contributions, Anita Raj said, “He worked incredibly hard and did a terrific job.”

More About Dr. Raj and Her Work

Earlier this month, Raj and Ulrike Boehmer, PhD, of the Boston University School of Public Health reported that rates of maternal and infant mortality are significantly higher in nations in which it is common for girls to be married before the age of 18.  |  Read the UCSD press release

At UC San Diego’s International Women’s Day event March 8, 2013, Raj spoke on “The Movement to End Rape Post-Delhi – Public Health Perspectives and Solutions.”

She was an online panelist on Public Radio International’s program The World February 25. The topic: whether there is a global movement for women’s safety in the wake of the Delhi rape protests.  |  Watch the video

In May 2012, Raj and her colleagues published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the results of two decades of efforts to eliminate the practice of girl-child marriage in South Asia.  |  Read the UCSD press release  |  Read the report

Anita Raj is also affiliated with the Section of General Internal Medicine, Clinical Addiction Research and Education in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center.

Citation for the Nepal study report:  Anita Raj, Rohan J. Vilms, Lotus McDougal, Jay G. Silverman. Association between having no sons and using no contraception among a nationally representative sample of young wives in Nepal. International journal of gynaecology and obstetrics: the official organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics – May 2013 (Vol. 121, Issue 2, Pages 162-165, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.12.011)  |  Read article abstract

Higher Child Marriage Rates Associated with Higher Maternal and Infant Mortality

Countries in which girls are commonly married before the age of 18 have significantly higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, report researchers in the current online issue of the journal Violence Against Women.

The study, by Anita Raj, PhD, a professor in the Department of Medicine in the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Ulrike Boehmer, PhD, an associate professor in the Boston University School of Public Health, is the first published ecological analysis of child marriage and maternal mortality. …Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Anita Raj

Anita Raj, PhD, a developmental psychologist, is professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health and a Senior Fellow in the Center on Global Justice.

Her research addresses gender-based violence, substance misuse and abuse, and sexual and reproductive health, with active projects currently in South Asia, Russia and the United States.

In May 2012, Raj and her colleagues published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the results of two decades of efforts to eliminate the practice of girl-child marriage in South Asia. | Read the UCSD press release | Read the report

Other news stories about Dr. Raj and her work:

Dr. Anita Raj Speaking at UC San Diego International Women’s Day Event on March 8

DrAnitaRaj_120x150Global health professor Anita Raj will speak on the topic, “The Movement to End Rape Post-Delhi – Public Health Perspectives and Solutions” at UC San Diego’s International Women’s Day 2013 event on March 8, 2013.

Anita Raj, PhD, a developmental psychologist, is professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health and a Senior Fellow in the Center on Global Justice.

Her research addresses gender-based violence, substance misuse and abuse, and sexual and reproductive health, with active projects currently in South Asia, Russia and the United States.

In May 2012, Raj and her colleagues published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the results of two decades of efforts to eliminate the practice of girl-child marriage in South Asia.  |  Read the UCSD press release  |  Read the report

More Information:

Girl Child Marriages Decline In South Asia, But Only Among Youngest

Findings mixed in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Each year, more than 10 million girls under the age of 18 marry, usually under force of local tradition and social custom. Almost half of these compulsory marriages occur in South Asia. A new study suggests that more than two decades of effort to eliminate the practice has produced mixed results…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Anita Raj, PhD
About the investigators:

Their report is published in a special Global Health issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  |  Read the report

Article citation: JAMA. 2012;307(19):2027-2029. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.3497.