Priya Shankar, MD, MPH
Nominated From: University of Washington
Research Site: Jawaharlal Nehru University
Research Area: Adolescent Health, Women’s Health, Girls’ Health
Primary Mentor(s): Harish Pemde and Latha Ravichandran
Evaluating Adolescents’ Healthcare Utilization and Adolescent-Friendly Health Care in India
Many of India’s over 120 million females suffer poor health outcomes related to nutrition, gender, mental health, and sexual & reproductive health. These outcomes are driven by limited educational resources during adolescence, minimal adolescent health-related infrastructure, and few existing adolescent-friendly health services.(1) Studies show that adolescent-friendly health services can improve healthcare utilization, health behaviors, and overall health outcomes.(2)
Unfortunately, there are few existing studies in India that evaluate adolescent girls’ health care-seeking behaviors or the degree to which they receive adolescent-friendly care.(3) Additionally, few studies evaluate provider perspectives of their own competencies in providing adolescent-friendly care. Dr. Shankar has designed a standardized survey tool (based on the WHO Quality Assessment and Core Competencies Guidebook) for youth and providers to assess and evaluate adolescent-friendly health services. Additionally, she has conducted qualitative and quantitative surveys with adolescents to evaluate their healthcare-seeking behaviors (including during the pandemic), as well as their perspectives on the adolescent-friendly nature of care. Additionally, she has examined healthcare providers’ competencies and ability to provide adolescent-friendly care to adolescents. Ultimately, through her research, she seeks to provide guidance on improving adolescent-friendly clinical services for adolescents, with the long-term vision that such changes may help improve healthcare utilization and adolescent health outcomes.
(1) Government of India/Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. National Health Mission Components, RMNCH + A, Adolescent Health: Background.
(2) Hoopes, Andrea J et al. “Measuring adolescent friendly health services in India: A scoping review of evaluations.” Reproductive health vol. 13,1 137. 15 Nov. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12978-016-0251-8.
(3) Denno DM, Hoopes AJ, Chandra-Mouli V. Effective strategies to provide adolescent sexual and reproductive health services and to increase and community support. J Adolesc Health. 2015;56(1 Suppl):S22–41.
Adolescents currently constitute over 20% of India’s population, and addressing their healthcare needs is tremendously important for the country’s overall growth and development. The Indian government continues to recognize this need and has worked to make this a priority area. My research seeks to contribute to adolescent health-related research in a country with the world’s largest adolescent population. Ultimately, by better understanding adolescent and provider perceptions regarding adolescent-related care, I hope to influence programmatic and policy design to make healthcare infrastructure more adolescent-friendly, improve healthcare utilization by adolescents, and overall health outcomes.
Advice for Potential Candidates
My two years on the Fogarty have been nothing short of incredible. I have grown tremendously as a pediatrician and as a researcher. As a clinician, I received a license to practice pediatrics in India, and have been able to train at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Adolescent Health in New Delhi, India. As a researcher, I have built partnerships with public health scholars and researchers across India and the United States and been able to find a like-minded community committed to supporting global adolescent health. The Fogarty years have taught me that public health scholarship and leadership can take much longer than one might expect, and to be patient with the process! Additionally, being open-minded to new directions or opportunities in both my clinical and research work has opened many doors and given me the chance to build out incredible connections and friendships that will last a lifetime – far beyond the Fogarty.
I recommend potential candidates to follow their heart in terms of their focus area and to develop a team that is willing to support their growth. Additionally, potential applicants should approach their Fogarty years keeping decolonization in mind and enter clinical and research spaces with humility, respect, and a willingness to learn. The goal should be to bring about long-term equitable collaboration.