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The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science Names Winners of Research Award

The research award this year focuses on work being pursued in a critical knowledge gap area—maternal and child health—with the aim of advancing the field of nutrition science and better serving women and infants through effective nutrition interventions.

Published March 25, 2014

NEW YORK, March 25, 2014The Sacker Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences announces the winners of its second annual research award. Three researchers will each receive $50,000 to pursue innovative research projects related to maternal and child malnutrition. The research award is intended to provide support to researchers concentrating their work on under-explored, and often under-funded, research topics.

The Sackler Institute is pleased to note that the winners' research projects all relate to testing new interventions that significantly improve newborn and infant health, such as breastfeeding and anemia reduction among pregnant women. Additionally, two of the projects support research in Sub Saharan Africa, where the burden of child malnutrition is among the highest in the world.

The award promotes the use of innovative approaches and partnerships. One of the winner's projects engages compliance partners-family members, such as a husband, who encourage pregnant women to adhere to interventions like taking micronutrient supplements. Another project proposes to partner directly with child care centers to avoid the interruption of breastfeeding when a child joins the center.

The Sackler Institute launched its Global Research Agenda for Nutrition Science in collaboration with the World Health Organization in December 2012, as a roadmap for the nutrition science field. "By directly funding research in gap areas identified in the Global Research Agenda, the Sackler Institute is aligning years of groundwork with strategically directed action," says Mandana Arabi, MD, PhD, director of The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science. "We look forward to the new knowledge that our research award winners will contribute to the field of nutrition science in the coming years."

Award Winners

The research award winners were selected from a pool of 70 high-quality proposals by five expert reviewers. The winners are:

  • Meredith Dyson, MSPH, Catholic Relief Services, Kenema, Sierra Leone, for her proposal, "Assessing the impact of integrating Early Childhood Development (ECD) into an ongoing child nutrition program for improved child growth outcomes."


"Malnutrition is a persistent problem in Sierra Leone, where one in 10 children die before their first birthday. The standard approaches to prevention and treatment aren't working fast enough. We need a more holistic approach to children's health and wellbeing. We hope that through this research, we can build evidence for a model that supports families to give kids a better start, a better chance for a healthy and happy life."

  • Daniel Schober, PhD, MPH, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, Omaha, Nebraska, for his proposal, "Effects of a multi-state intervention to promote breastfeeding among mothers with children in childcare."


"This research will help us understand how we can enable more mothers to breastfeed while in childcare facilities. Since the majority of mothers utilize childcare, it is important that this environment helps facilitate child health and well-being through the promotion of breastfeeding."

  • Rebecca Stoltzfus, PhD, MS, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, for her proposal,"Evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of adherence partners for the prevention of preeclampsia and anemia in pregnant women in Western Kenya."


"Nutrition interventions for pregnant women could greatly benefit women and their infants, but they do not reach women due to a combination of social and health systems barriers. We want to discover whether a home-based support person will help overcome these barriers for pregnant women in rural Kenya."

Research Award Process

In order to select the winners of the research award, The Sackler Institute solicited abstracts from more than 700 scientists, and disseminated the call on the Institute's website and through various networks. The Sackler Institute staff carefully reviewed the proposals and evaluated adherence to the basic qualifications that had been spelled out in the application (including research methods, focus on one of five stated topics of interest, timeline, etc.). As a result, more than 20 proposals were selected to be reviewed by a panel of external experts.

Reviewers were invited to grade, rank, and provide comments on the abstracts in their areas of expertise. The reviewers are either members of The Sackler Institute's various Working Groups, or were nominated as highly respected experts in specific research areas related to the proposals that had been submitted.

The reviewers included:

Christine Blake, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina;

Diane Dembicki, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Online MS in Nutrition Program, College of Nursing and Public Health and the Center for Health Innovation, Adelphi University;

Ann DiGirolamo, PhD, MPH, Senior Research Associate, Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, Georgia Health Policy Center, Georgia State University;

Lori Melichar, PhD, MA, Team Director, Pioneer Portfolio, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and

Gretel Pelto, PhD, MA, Graduate Professor, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University.

The selection committee gave high importance to proposals addressing an important gap in nutrition science and instances where results could trigger new processes, behavioral interventions, and support systems in the area of maternal and child health.

The Sackler Institute would like to express its gratitude to the judges for their time and efforts.

For more information on the winners and judging panel, as well as The Sackler Institute's efforts to advance research, please visit and click on the "Advancing Research" tab.

Calls for abstracts for The Sackler Institute's third research award will begin in Fall 2014.

About The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science
The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences is dedicated to advancing nutrition science research and knowledge, mobilizing communities, and translating this work into the field. The Institute is generating a coordinated network across sectors, disciplines, and geographies that promotes open communication; encourages exchange of information and resources; nurtures the next generation of scientists; and affects community intervention design and public policy changes. Visit for more information.


About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 22,000 members around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at