Health economics student takes first place in Dairy Data Challenge

Alejandra Leyton, a master’s of public health student in the 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.

Student Alejandra Leyton took top prize in the Incentive Challenge to Improve Dairy Data. She hopes to inspire more students to enter challenges like these to use their public health skills for real world applications.

Student Alejandra Leyton took top prize in the Incentive Challenge to Improve Dairy Data. She hopes to inspire more students to enter challenges like these to use their public health skills for real world applications.

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 Fullbright 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 (PAHO) and decided to work together to come up with “Dairy Surveillance for the Future,” which earned them the top prize of $5,625.00.

Their proposal focused on data collection through “reward circles” in which small dairy farmers come together in a group to report 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 via cloud technology with government officials, NGOs, 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. She pointed out how having the 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 had only just met when they began working on the dairy challenge, but really became close while preparing their proposal. They are now banding together again with more of their fellow PAHO interns on a new innovation challenge focused on vaccines.

—Dee Boling

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About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
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