2024 Vanderbilt Global Health Case Competition


“Over the next week, develop a proposal to halve the maternal mortality rate in Ghana.”

That was the challenge that 15 teams in the 14th annual Vanderbilt Global Health Case Competition received on a Saturday afternoon in February. A week later, nearly 100 students gathered to present their well-researched and innovative plans to tackle that challenge. This annual competition brings together students from diverse degree programs across Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges to think critically and creatively around challenging issues in health worldwide.

A sampling of this year’s proposals included programs that focused on policy, education, and emergency medicine; improved supply chain and transportation in rural areas; and increased male engagement and education around women’s health. The winning team used a bottom-up approach to implement a cohort of community health workers to significantly expand care access to all. Through task shifting, they proposed moving preventative and general care tasks downstream from doctors to community health workers, who are trained to assist in critical but basic tasks. This team will compete in the international global health case competition, hosted by Emory University. Team members included undergraduate students Aneesh Batchun, Shayaan Essani, Ishaan Gadiyar, Rashid Osma, Milind Muthiah, and Shreyas Teegala. The second place team included MPH Global Health track students Caitlin Bieniek, Mimi Coffey, Julia Landivar Donato, Ariana Matos, and Sherissa Mohammed-Ali. They proposed a comprehensive approach to strengths community health workers’ preventative care capacities.

Globally, maternal mortality is the leading cause of death among females aged 15-49 years old. In 2020, more than 800 women died each day from pregnancy related causes, resulting in an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths annually. Almost 95% of those deaths occurred in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, with around 70% of deaths occurring in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Although maternal mortality rates in Ghana have decreased by 38% over the past decade (from 485 in 2010 to 301 in 2021), the country still falls short of the Sustainable Development Goal target of 70 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The competition was hosted by the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health’s Student Advisory Council and led by co-chairs Ellie Armstrong and Joshua Atura. Dr. Michael DeBaun gave the keynote address as well as judged the competition. Other judges included Drs. Kaylon Bruner-Tran, Marie Martin, Soha Patel, Michelle Roach, and Elizabeth Rose.

World Health Organization. (2023). Maternal Mortality. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from the World Health Organization website