Columbia University Establishes Global Health Research Center in Central Asia

July 30, 2007 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release
July 30, 2007

Jeannie Hii, 212-851-2327 or
Melanie A. Farmer, 212-854-9082 or

Center provides HIV/AIDS prevention and research
in a region with rising global health problems

New York, NY —The Columbia University School of Social Work’s (CUSSW) Social Intervention Group and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) today announced the launch of the Columbia University Global Health Research Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  The first research center on global health established by a university in Central Asia, the center will serve Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.  It will develop effective solutions to pressing health problems and help reduce health disparities in Central Asia, which is experiencing one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world. 

 “The Global Health Center will play a vital role in combating some of the most serious health issues facing Central Asia,” says Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University. “The center affirms Columbia’s mission to create international academic partnerships that energize research on—and solutions to—global challenges at home and abroad. We are so excited by the dynamic educational opportunities this center will provide.”

“In some regions, the number of people affected with HIV has doubled annually since 2000. The sharp rise in health epidemics in Central Asia demands innovative and scientifically-based approaches to prevention and social policies,” says Nabila El-Bassel, professor of social work and director of Social Intervention Group. “These epidemics are linked with psychological distress, trauma, poverty, domestic violence, and other problems that need to be addressed.”

Research has proven that the exponential growth of HIV/AIDS in Central Asia is largely due to the sharp increase in heroin injection drug use. Occurring along with the rapid diffusion of drug use in the region is the growth of informal economies including drug trafficking, population migration, and prostitution, which have created risk environments conducive to the spread of HIV, tuberculosis (TB), Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the heart of this epidemic are young people: 80 percent of HIV cases affect people under 30.

The center’s work is based on nearly 20 years of experience of Columbia researchers addressing the needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and trauma.  It will bring leading multidisciplinary global health experts together to conduct behavioral and social science research that will inform best practices for effective prevention, treatment, and care of HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, TB, and other global health problems. By working in collaboration with a regional advisory network of academics, research scholars, and leading representatives from government and NGOs, the center aims to build the social service infrastructure and strengthen the capacity of local institutions to bring effective interventions to community-based settings.

“Our program activities are focused on strengthening academic research capacity in the region and building a bridge between institutions and communities,” says Peter Bearman, director of ISERP. “The center’s three core program areas will help determine community needs, develop intervention programs, and advance regional health policies to improve treatment for those who need them most.”

The core program areas are:

Research and Training—Conduct scientific research that will inform policies and programs to reverse the tide of HIV/AIDS and other global health problems in Central Asia. In addition, increase the number of research scientists, faculty, and PhD and post-doctoral students in the region who are able to conduct epidemiological, behavioral, and social science research.

Translation of Research into Effective Programs and Policy—Translate research into prevention and treatment programs, using proven methods of dissemination and effective health interventions in different low-resource, community-based settings.

Technical Assistance—Provide technical assistance on global health research methods and data analysis to government, private, and NGO organizations in Central Asia.


About the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) is the research arm of the social sciences at Columbia University.  Its core mission is to catalyze and produce pioneering social science research and to shape public policy by integrating knowledge and methods across the social science disciplines.(

About Columbia University
A leading academic and research university, Columbia continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations and community partnerships enrich campus life. They help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. For more information, visit