Global Health NOW Features Marie Thoma's "Untold Story of Global Health"
Marie Thoma, an assistant professor of family science in the School of Public Health received an honorable mention in the 2019 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Global Health NOW Annual Untold Stories of Global Health Contest for her submission putting forth the untold story of infertility as a neglected disease in low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs).
"Infertility in low-income countries is a neglected reproductive health issue, despite its staggering impact," Dr. Thoma explained in her nomination submission. "It is also under-measured, especially in low-income settings—but a new approach to measuring the extent of the problem could be a catalyst for change."
According to the Global Health Now report, written by Joanne Silberner, an 18-year veteran of NPR's Science Desk and a freelance reporter focusing on global health, Dr. Thoma's interest in infertility within LMIC countries began when she was studying infertility among women in the US using two different approaches. The first approach derived from questions on sexual activity, contraception, relationship status, and pregnancy (traditional constructed approach). The second approach utilized the estimated time to pregnancy derived from how long respondents had been trying to get pregnant (current duration approach). When Dr. Thoma looked into what was happening in poorer countries, she did not find much information.
To help estimate the prevalence of infertility in LMICs, Dr. Thoma and colleagues applied the current duration approach in Nigeria in the study, "Estimating infertility prevalence in low-to-middle-income countries: an application of a current duration approach to Demographic and Health Survey data." The researchers found that a "substantial percentage of couples in Nigeria may be struggling with infertility." They argued that "In the new era of sustainable development goals where equity is at its core, robust and actionable estimates of infertility will be crucial in focusing commitment, services and resources at the global and country-level to the neglected issue of infertility in low-income settings."
Dr. Thoma's research centers on the importance of addressing women's health to improve family health. Her work focuses on population-based methodologies for assessing women's gynecologic health, family planning and maternal and infant health in the US and internationally.