Health economics student takes first place in global challenge

September 30, 2013 11:00 AM

Dee Boling
dboling@tulane.edu

Alejandra Leyton, a master of public health student in the Tulane University Department of Global Health Systems and Development, has earned top prize in the Incentive Challenge to Improve Dairy Data, issued by Scientists Without Borders in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science.

Public health graduate student Alejandra Leyton

Public health graduate student Alejandra Leyton earned top prize for her creative idea to increase quality of milk and nutrition as well as income for dairy farmers. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)


The innovation challenge was designed to spur creative ideas to increase and improve milk collection data in low-resource settings. Better data collection could help boost overall production and quality of milk, increasing small dairy farmer income and improving nutrition for the local area. The challenge attracted more than 40 entries from nearly 20 countries.

Leyton is a Fulbright scholar from Bolivia, where she earned her undergraduate degree in economics. Her challenge partner was Veena Katikineni, a medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. They met while interning at the Pan American Health Organization and decided to work together to come up with “Dairy Surveillance for the Future,” which earned them the top prize of $5,625.

Their proposal focused on data collection through “reward circles” of small dairy farmers reporting key information about milk production in return for incentives such as livestock feed. A milk surveillance assistant would submit the data via coded text messaging, shared through cloud technology with government officials and international organizations.

“The most important part of our proposal was not the technology, but the idea of building up the community — putting people together to share information,” says Leyton. “Having farmers band together makes them a stronger network overall. The proposed method would also be cost-effective since surveillance assistants would not have to gather data farm by farm.”

Leyton and Katikineni are banding together again with fellow interns on a new innovation challenge focused on vaccines.

Dee Boling is director of communications for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

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