Washington University in St. Louis: Ssewamala awarded $5.7M for work in Uganda

Fred Ssewamala, the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor at the Brown School, along with colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, has received $5.7 million in two separate grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for his work in sub-Saharan Africa.

Along with research assistant professors Proscovia Nabunya and Ozge Sensoy Bahar, Ssewamala was awarded a five-year $2.4 million grant to examine the longitudinal impacts of an economic empowerment intervention on HIV risk prevention and care continuum outcomes among orphaned youth transitioning to young adulthood.

The new study, known as Bridges Round 2 (2022-2026), will extend their original Bridges to the Future Study (2012-2018), which was implemented in Uganda among 1,383 orphaned youth.

“Findings from the first round of the study filled important gaps on the effects of an economic empowerment intervention on short-term stability,” Ssewamala said. “However, the extent to which these observed short-term behaviors are sustained over time is unknown. Yet, given the unique vulnerabilities during the transition into young adulthood, it is critical to examine the long-term effectiveness of economic empowerment across the life course of youth orphaned by HIV. This new funding provides us an opportunity to identify successful and problematic transitions for young people while determining strategic points of intervention.”

In addition, Ssewemala has received a five-year $3.3 million grant to address child behavioral health among school-going children in Uganda.

He will share the grant with Mary McKay, vice provost of interdisciplinary initiatives.

The study, Suubi4StrongerFamilies (2022-27), builds on more than 10 years of research findings in sub-Saharan Africa to examine the mechanisms by which economic empowerment and family-strengthening interventions targeting social, familial and context-specific drivers affect childhood behavioral health among adolescents in primary schools in Uganda.

“If children’s needs are to be met in sub-Saharan Africa, it is critical that we implement interventions designed and tested there, and which mobilize resources within existing child-focused institutions, such as families and school,” Ssewamala said.

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