Linda A. Winkler, special assistant to the provost and director of international outreach at Wilkes University, has received an Incubator Award from the public-private partnership Saving Lives at Birth. The partnership includes USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grand Challenges Canada, and UKAID. The primary goal of the partnership is to provide quality health care to expectant mothers in under-developed countries.
Winkler’s project, Healthier Babies and Mothers Through Solar-Assisted Cell Networks and Community TBA Interventions, addresses the issue of HIV transmission at birth and obstetrical complications associated with AIDS. Winkler has conducted extensive research of maternal health care in rural northwestern Tanzania in partnership with Nyakahanga Hospital. In March 2013, she submitted a proposal with Nyakahanga Hospital that outlined procedures to help increase the use of prenatal care and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Saving Lives at Birth is developing opportunities to optimize birth outcomes before and after the time of birth. This requires improved access to prenatal care, family planning resources, birth spacing and delay, proper nutrition, and post and antenatal care. These are standards that Winkler’s project addresses in an innovative and effective way.
The project provides training for an existing network of traditional birth attendants, provides vouchers for private car transport to the hospital for pregnant women, and utilizes solar technology to recharge cell phones which are used to monitor pregnancies. This should improve both the service delivery and new technology access through the use of established networks in the local communities while using new technologies to enhance support and encourage behavior change. Winkler and her collaborator, Dr. Rabson Bagoka from Tanzania, will monitor program success through birth and hospital records as part of the project.
Winkler was one of ten individuals nominated for the award from a pool of over 300 applicants. Incubator Awards are intended to support the further development and articulation of promising and innovative ideas. Award recipients participate in an intensive three-day training workshop to develop a strategies that model and guide the development of their project, thus determining the feasibility, timeline and funding sources required to implement their concept. The workshop will be held in Nairobi, Kenya in early December.
Winkler is an anthropologist who has received numerous awards for her teaching endeavors, including her work in developing and teaching international courses and her projects in Tanzania. She received a bachelor of arts degree from Midland Lutheran College and a master of arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Winkler was also awarded her doctorate and masters of public health degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.
One of her favorite accomplishments was the development of a series of children’s books written in Swahili for use in East Africa. These books began as a research project in collaboration with a Tanzanian AIDS Control Program to develop AIDS education for children.