Chantelle Boudreaux is a doctoral student in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. After working as a policy analyst at the World Bank, Chantelle now studies how to design policies that result in effective health systems strengthening. With her Harvard Chan school advisor, Assistant Professor of Global Health Economics Margaret McConnell, Chantelle also conducts research in Mozambique in partnership with a Population Services International (PSI) malaria prevention project.
In 2015, Harvard’s Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe initiative awarded Chantelle a travel fellowship that enabled her to spend the summer in Mozambique working on the project. Malaria is a key obstacle to health and development in many countries, including Mozambique. Chantelle, a self-proclaimed “health systems person,” said, “I approach public health from the perspective of governments, trying to look at publicly funded programs and where national priorities should be.” As Chantelle explained, “In Mozambique, malaria is a huge cause of morbidity and mortality, amongst children especially, and in the population as a whole. So that’s really what drove us to focus on it.”
Mozambique’s government health services, PSI, and other partner organizations use a common set of public health messages about malaria prevention to augment community-based bednet distribution programs. Chantelle helped her collaborators from PSI to design a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of these messages with the bednet recipients. Upon arriving in Maputo, Chantelle met with the collaborators. She said, “We were able to get everybody in the same room and really push things forward. At the end of the day, you can only do so much by Skype calls. The travel fellowship support was critical to advancing our work.” Chantelle participated in the launch of the study, which involved gathering data through in-person informational sessions, follow-up data collection through mobile phones, and qualitative interviews.
What captured Chantelle’s particular interest was the intersection of the study’s central research question – what motivates people to follow prevention recommendations? – with her broader interest in strengthening public sector health systems. “My perspective is always: what are we doing with our public resources?” reflected Chantelle. “How can we optimize resources? And how can we make sure that the people who need services get what they need?”
To tackle these issues, Chantelle and her collaborators looked beyond the public system. The research team has begun to consider how to incentivize households that can afford to pay for bednets to buy their nets through the private sector. This could relieve some pressure on the public sector health system.
Chantelle has experience researching a range of healthcare delivery areas, including maternal and child health services. Her on-the-ground observations in Mozambique convinced her that malaria offers unique opportunities for health system strengthening. She commented: “People don’t always perceive value in preventive health care services. Whereas with malaria, research has shown that people perceive malaria prevention products as valuable. In the past, people were often complacent about malaria risk, saying, ‘Oh, I’ve had malaria a thousand times, my mother had malaria a thousand times. It’s just the way it is, it’s not a problem.’ But now, we’re increasingly hearing people say, ‘Malaria is a problem! We can prevent it, and we should prevent it.’”
Chantelle Boudreaux is a doctoral student in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health