Saruna Ghimire leverages her background in public health and prolific research portfolio in global aging to teach epidemiology and global aging courses at Miami. Her research focuses on health and well-being in later life, including understanding the social determinants of healthy aging among diverse communities.
In the summer of 2022, she was awarded the Philip and Elaina Hampton Fund for Faculty International Initiatives to travel to Nepal to oversee an ongoing research project on Aging in Nepal.
My broad area of research includes health and well-being in late life in the global context. Specifically, using epidemiological approaches, I am interested in understanding the distribution and determinants of chronic disease and multimorbidity and important barriers to prevention and treatment among older adults. To date, the majority of my work has been conducted among older adults in two South Asian countries, Nepal and Bangladesh. Proudly, I am a pioneer researcher on aging in my native country of Nepal. My recent work also focuses on older refugee health among resettled Bhutanese in Ohio and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
In the summer of 2022, I was awarded the Philip and Elaina Hampton Fund for Faculty International Initiatives to travel to Nepal to oversee an ongoing research project on Aging in Nepal. Frequent travel abroad is challenging; however, with well-established collaborations with researchers from several institutions in Nepal, Australia and Bangladesh, I have successfully conducted my studies.
Yes and No. COVID-19 significantly hindered my originally planned research. Specifically, fieldwork was challenged because my study population was not tech-savvy, and in-person interviews were not possible due to the pandemic. As a result, projects were significantly delayed, some for over a year. Fortunately, recently as pandemic-related restrictions were eased, I was able to complete the data collection by this summer.
On the other side, the pandemic also opened new areas for scholarly work. I took advantage of that to study the impact of the pandemic on access to healthcare, the preparedness of healthcare systems to tackle the pandemic and knowledge and misconceptions of COVID-19.
During the pandemic, we studied mental health, loneliness, risk behaviors such as tobacco use, and healthcare access challenges among Bangladeshi older adults. The studies found highly prevalent depressive symptoms during the first wave of the pandemic, which increased during the second wave. The studies also found increased reports of loneliness and tobacco use, and challenges accessing health care and medications among Bangladeshi older adults amidst the pandemic. Similarly, we also studied the health and well-being of older Rohingya refugees (displaced Myanmar nationals currently seeking refuge in Bangladesh) and found that many Rohingya older adults held significant COVID-19-related misconceptions and reported challenges accessing medicines and routine medical care during the pandemic. In another study on the health profile of resettled older Bhutanese in Ohio, during preliminary analysis, we found a high mental health burden, significantly higher than other racial/ethnic groups in Ohio.
For the coming years, I plan to continue expanding my research on aging in Nepal and among older adults with refugee backgrounds. Currently, fieldwork is planned for a pilot study on aging in Nepal. Another intervention to promote health among resettled older Bhutanese is in the inception stage.
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