Abstract: The interactions between biological and cultural processes are critical determinants of human health. Successful public health programs must therefore be based on a synthesis of biological and anthropological research. By disentangling the impacts of behavior and biology on human health, we can update health care objectives and practices. Human movements and shifts in settlements across short and long time scales can result in misallocated health care resources and inefficient response to crises. I develop methods to quantify changing human population sizes and distributions to improve resource allocation in both routine health care settings and crisis response. This ranges from assessing health care system capacity for stable populations to outbreak control through vaccination and rapid response following population-scale disruptions due to natural disasters or political instability. This approach is also valuable in informing predictive mathematical models of human interactions and demographics to provide insight into a broader spectrum of human health issues. Here, I demonstrate these concepts specifically for the transmission and prevention of infectious diseases and access to health care in low-income settings ranging from rural Africa to urban America.
About the Speaker: Nita Bharti is a Branco Weiss Society in Science fellow with an interdisciplinary background in Biology (PhD) and Anthropology (MA). She is a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Woods Institute of the Environment with a research associate appointment in the Biology Department and Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University. Her research integrates methods across social and natural sciences to identify and solve problems in human health, often in low-income settings. In addition to academic researchers across a wide variety of disciplines, her collaborators frequently include outreach and non-profit organizations as well as local authorities on public health and safety.