Skip to Main Content

Alumna Uses Her Expertise to Support Women’s and Children’s Health Globally

Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2022
by Kenneth Best


From a young age, alumna Julia Dayton Eberwein, Ph.D. ’99, knew she wanted to work on economic development issues and to reduce poverty. She did not know her path to that work would be as a researcher and consultant on global health financing.

Over the past two decades, Eberwein has developed expertise in malnutrition and obesity policy, public health program evaluation and poverty reduction working for organizations that include the Inter-American Development Bank, Population Council and the World Bank.

“As I was working to support the World Bank’s efforts toward reducing poverty, I realized the importance of improving health outcomes,” she said.

As a health economist consultant for the World Bank, Eberwein played a key role in developing a 10-year, $70 billion global health and economic investment challenge called “An Investment Framework for Nutrition.” The campaign, jointly led by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, sought to globally reduce malnutrition that stunts growth in children, address iron deficiencies in women of reproductive age and encourage breastfeeding during the first six months of an infant’s life. Those efforts could ultimately benefit close to 69 million children, according to a recent World Bank report.

Eberwein’s current work is with the World Bank’s Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF), which

supports efforts by low- and middle-income countries to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition while also strengthening financing and health systems for universal health coverage. Seventy-six nations are eligible for support under the GFF partnership, and 36 are currently enrolled. The program’s objective is to prevent up to 3.8 million maternal deaths, 101 million child deaths and 21 million stillborn deaths.

The GFF effort includes a detailed analysis of different populations’ approaches to health care, including why some populations are foregoing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the types of health care services not being used and the reasons individuals are not seeking care. Disruptions in care for pregnant women and new mothers in some countries is among the areas of concern, according to GFF research.

“Maintaining essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to prevent these severe outcomes and protect the gains made over the past years in reducing maternal and child mortality,” Eberwein notes in a fact sheet about the effort.

As I was working to support the World Bank’s efforts toward reducing poverty, I realized the importance of improving health outcomes.

Julia Eberwein

Information already gathered about how families are using health services is being analyzed for policy briefs to assist nations in continuing to improve access to services.

Eberwein arrived at Yale after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Emory University and a Master of Public Administration in Research and Development Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She landed an internship at the Inter-American Development Bank, where a colleague referred her to a friend at the World Bank.

She says her decision to pursue a doctoral degree in public health at Yale was influenced by a mentor at the World Bank, Martha Ainsworth, Ph.D. ’89 (Economics), who had been guided by T. Paul Schultz, the Malcolm K. Brachman Professor Emeritus in Yale’s Department of Economics, who would later serve on her dissertation committee.

“I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in health economics at Yale precisely because I learned at the World Bank of the importance of being able to assess how it benefits people in economic terms,” says Eberwein, who served as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. “Those were the skills that I was able to develop in my Ph.D. program, and I went on to apply those in a variety of settings.”

Her doctoral dissertation examined the impact of the AIDS pandemic on families, specifically when a parent dies and how it affects a child’s health. When she returned to the World Bank in 2014, she worked on the Framework for Nutrition report. “I worked on that report bringing the skills I had learned in my Ph.D. and had been practicing, but specifically to the field of undernutrition in young children,” she said.

During her time at Yale, Eberwein says she was guided by Dr. Michael Merson, M.D., the dean of Public Health at the time, and Elizabeth Bradley, Ph.D. ’96, founder of the Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale and now president of Vassar College. Jody L. Sindelar, Ph.D., Yale professor of public health and of economics, served as her doctoral adviser and chair of her dissertation committee.

Eberwein and Sindelar, along with Professor Susan W. Parker from the University of Maryland, are working together on a research project focused on childhood obesity in Mexico. They are analyzing whether Mexican mothers’ characteristics and parenting decisions can protect their young children from the obesogenic food environment. In Mexico, mothers are generally the key decision-makers for their children’s nutrition.

Previous Article
UNICEF Work Rewarding For YSPH Alumna
Next Article
Yale Endowment Pledge Sets New Course For YSPH