Dr Della Berhanu
My main interest lies in system strengthening. As the Ethiopian Country Coordinator within the Informed Decisions for Actions (IDEAS) team I have been working closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and its partners. Along with my colleague Dr. Bilal Avan, we lead the evaluation of the Ethiopian Government’s Community Based Newborn Care programme, which includes antibiotic treatment of newborns with suspected bacterial infection by community health workers.
As a Dagu team member based within the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, I work on the ‘development of Ethiopian excellence in public health evaluation’. Dagu is evaluating the Optimizing the Health Extension Programme, which aims to increase utilization of community based services for under 5 children. In collaboration with four Ethiopian universities Dagu training 11 PhD students, some of which have been recruited from the government’s regional health bureaus. I co-supervise some of these students and work with the universities to improve their research operations and overall PhD programmes.
I have also worked at the National Institute for Health’ (NIH) vaccine research center for HIV. The work involved tissue culture, running assays and flow cytometry analysis. As a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University, I ran a study on khat use in Ethiopia and its association with risky sexual behaviour, HIV transmission and CD4 T cell counts.
Within the IDEAS’ (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation) evaluation of the Community Based Newborn Care programme, we conducted quality of care assessment which included a direct observation of community health workers’ management of sick young infants. We also assessed their young infant management skills through clinical vignettes. These results are currently being used by the ministry of health to improve CBNC programme implementation.
To improve the use of local health data for planning, we conducted the feasibility study for the Data Informed Platform for Health in Ethiopia, as a framework to bring together key data from public and private health sectors on inputs and processes that can influence maternal and newborn health. We plan to pilots such a platform in Ethiopia soon.
While at NIH, I developed a protocol for the optimal isolation of lymphocytes for chemokine receptor expression, including those used for HIV attachment. With funding form NIH, my dissertation work assessed the changing pattern of khat use along with the taxonomy of khat. Furthermore, I investigated the perceived effects of khat use and the interplay between khat, alcohol and risky sexual behavior.