Elizabeth Bloom, a second-year student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, was recently recommended as a semifinalist by the National Screening Committee of the Institute of International Education for the 2022-23 Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Bloom applied to be placed in Guinea, a French-speaking country along the Atlantic coast of western Africa. A native of Philadelphia, Pa., who is pursuing a concurrent Master of Public Health from the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, Bloom proposed research that would seek to determine if an on-site, trauma-informed prenatal yoga program would improve pregnancy and childbirth experiences for Guinean women. If selected, Bloom will leave for nine months starting in January 2023.
“I am hopeful that I will be able to jumpstart my career in international public health program development and research,” Bloom said. “Along with the guidance of Dr. (Nichola) Driver, I developed a community-based participatory research project. This project will test to see if incorporating yoga into prenatal care visits at Hôpital ANAIM Kamsar in Kamsar, Boké will lead to increased contact with the hospital and more positive experiences of pain, stress, and discomfort during pregnancy and delivery.”
Guinea currently has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates and, according to the World Health Organization, just 38.9% of Guineans live near accessible health services. Research shows a tremendous drop-off between Guineans’ first and fourth prenatal health visits, and that drop-off is most extreme in the region of Boké.
A graduate of Saint Joseph’s University with a degree in chemical biology, Bloom said that her interest in Guinea as a research location was sparked by recent work with Winrock International.
“I have been volunteering with the Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer in Guinea program since 2020 doing French translation work,” Bloom said, describing the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program that sends highly-skilled volunteers to bring innovation and best-practices to farmers in developing countries. “I was able to build relationships with my teammates, learn about the country, and find a hospital in Kamsar, Boké, Guinea willing to partner with me for this research.”
Bloom is fluent in French, a language she learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, another French-speaking nation.
“It’s where I became invested in public health and reproductive health,” Bloom said, reflecting on her Peace Corps experience in Cameroon. “Since then, I’ve been eager to return overseas to continue community health work. I applied to the Fulbright program to do work that I am passionate about and combine all my years of experience in public service and my education in science, research, and public health.”