By Nick Steenwyk
The Policy Fellows program in the Duke Global Health Institute’s (DGHI) Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) is hosting its second cohort of fellows this year. The two fellows, Munkhtsetseg (Muugii) Byambaa and Joseph Nii Ottoe Dodoo, are conducting their own research studies, taking classes, and sharing their knowledge, experience and insights with the CPIGH team. The Policy Fellows program is geared toward early- to mid-career professionals in low- and middle-income countries.
Munkhtsetseg (Muugii) Byambaa
Munkhtsetseg Byambaa, from Mongolia, came with more than 10 years of experience in the Mongolian Ministry of Health (MoH), starting in the finance department.
As she gained exposure to the world of health financing, health economics began to pique her interest, so she pursued her master’s degree at the University of Queensland. “Health economics is a new, exciting, and very important field because with health, resources are extremely limited, but need is limitless. It’s difficult to determine how to spend money in the most efficient and appropriate way,” she said.
After completing her master’s, Byambaa returned to the MoH, this time in the policy planning department. In this role, she identified the need for an analysis of the cost effectiveness of the rotavirus vaccine in Mongolia.
This cost effectiveness analysis became the focus of Byambaa’s fellowship experience. CPIGH director Gavin Yamey and deputy director Osondu Ogbuoji challenged her to conduct an “extended” cost effectiveness analysis (ECEA). An ECEA is “extended” beyond a traditional cost effectiveness analysis in that it assesses not only the health gains but also the financial benefits to households of investing in an intervention. Byambaa, who recently completed her fellowship, presented her findings to the CPIGH team and plans to publish them.
Outside of her research, Byambaa took classes on research design, global health challenges, and health policy. She also had the opportunity to give insight into the Mongolian health system as a panelist at the Triangle Global Health Conference and as an attendee at a conference held by the Center for Global Development, a non-profit think tank that focuses on international development. “I wanted to tell the experience of the Mongolian health system and learn about the American health system so that we can both improve,” she said.
Byambaa’s experience also sparked several more research questions. “When I start doing research, I become addicted to it,” she said. “So many good research ideas come up as branches off of your main project.” Byambaa plans on using some of the skills she developed in her fellowship to improve long-term policy for spending international aid money within the health sector in Mongolia.
Joseph Nii Otoe Dodoo
Joseph Dodoo earned his master’s degree in public health from the University of Ghana and is currently a doctoral candidate in public health at the University of Cape Town. To pursue his doctorate and participate in the fellowship, he is on extended leave from his health policy analyst role at the Ghana MoH.
In his doctoral research, Dodoo is seeking to understand how changes in government in Ghana have influenced implementation of maternal health policies. “How can we ensure that the implementation of policy is sustained beyond the reign of a political party? I think that’s an important question and I want to use my PhD research to find the answer,” he said.
Since he just began his fellowship, Dodoo is still writing his research protocol, but is finalizing the details of the project. He’ll be assessing the readiness of Ghana’s health system to sustain vaccination programs beyond the exit of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as an aid donor. “Donor partners are transitioning, and this may impact service delivery and what we do as a sector,” he said.
Dodoo especially has enjoyed interactions with the CPIGH team throughout his first few weeks. “These are brilliant, super cool people at the center. I like the way they organize themselves as a team and can disagree respectfully to reach the best solution,” he said.
Networks formed in the fellowship are especially valuable to Dodoo. He’s been able to connect his colleagues with Duke collaborators and has offered insight into Ghana’s health system to the CPIGH team.
Upon completion of his fellowship, Dodoo will return to the University of Cape Town to complete his doctorate. “I believe that with the right amount of effort and quality data, my work can influence change in my country.”
Learn more about the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health’s Fellows Program.
I wanted to tell the experience of the Mongolian health system and learn about the American health system so that we can both improve.Munkhtsetseg Byambaa, policy fellow