Sera Young, PhD

Sera Young, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

The focus of Dr. Young’s work is on the reduction maternal and child undernutrition in low-resource settings, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Methodologically, she draws on her training in medical anthropology (MA, University of Amsterdam), international nutrition (PhD, Cornell) and HIV (Fellowship, University of California San Francisco) to take a biocultural approach to understanding how mothers in low-resource settings cope to preserve their health and that of their families. 

Dr. Young and her research group focus on three major areas:
1. Food insecurity. What is the role of food insecurity in adverse maternal and child health and nutritional outcomes, especially in the context of HIV? What are the types of effects, magnitude of effects, and which of these are modifiable? How can food insecurity be mitigated amongst women and children in low resource settings? To answer these questions we have observational and intervention studies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
 
2. Household-level water insecurity. While we know how to measure household food insecurity, our understanding of both how to measure household level water insecurity and what its consequences are is in its infancy. Our longterm goal is to collaborate to create a cross-culturally valid measure of household water insecurity. In the short term, we are conducting formative work on scale development and validation in Kenya supported by the NIH.
 
3. Pica (the craving and consumption of non-food items such as earth, charcoal, and ice). Is pica an adaptive response to health challenges? What is the relationship between pica and iron deficiency? In our data from East Africa, North America, and elsewhere, we have long observed that non-food cravings and iron deficiency have long been associated, but the nature of the relationship is unclear. We are using a variety of in vitro and in vivo animal studies as well as observational studies in human and non- human primates to ascertain the mechanisms underlying this observation, and to test the two major physiological hypotheses about pica: supplementation and detoxification. 

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