Christie Zheng

Developmental needs of refugee children in the US and developmental progress of children in resource-limited settings
Christie Zheng, School of Medicine, 2023

Christie is a 2020 Center for Global Health Research in Virtual Environments Initiative Scholar.

I am spending the summer doing research on developmental needs of young children who have come to the US as refugees, as well as studying developmental progress in children in settings of malnutrition and enteric disease in rural Tanzania. 

We first looked at the developmental and medical needs of children coming as refugees who may have had any delays or disabilities.  We researched baseline characteristics and looked at referrals, educational needs, and medical treatments for children coming to UVA’s International Child Development Clinic.  This manuscript has been prepared and submitted for review. 

Next, we looked at all the children referred for motor impairments to examine what diagnoses these children were ultimately given, to help inform pediatricians on clinical care pathways and diagnoses seen in children coming as refugees.  We have drafted this manuscript and are currently editing. 

In addition, I have been doing literature review of several developmental assessments and the impact of early childhood adversities on cognitive development for children in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC). From this literature review, I drafted the background sections of two upcoming papers. One is about a new developmental assessment for testing early cognitive development and the study participants are children from rural Tanzania. The other paper analyzes data from the MAL-ED network, which is a longitudinal study on the effect of enteric pathogens and malnutrition on children’s development in eight LMICs. I have also been writing for a grant on analyzing additional data from a previous research project by Dr. Scharf. This project is about children’s performance on an assessment that measures maternal-infant interaction in rural Tanzania.

There are many ongoing projects at this point and I have learned so much about child development in resource-limited settings. From my research, what struck me most was that globally, around 200 million children under the age of 5 fail to meet their developmental potential, which highlights the challenging but necessary work that needs to be done to provide better nutrition, living standards, and early cognitive-stimulating home environments for children in LMICs. My experience this summer really encourages me to learn more about global health and to participate in more global-health related research in the future.