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PURE Award winners 2015: Natasha Hoehn

Undergraduate student working in Nicaragua to improve community health


By Heath McCoy
May 14, 2015

Committed to a goal of research excellence with its bold Eyes High strategy, one of the University of Calgary’s most important initiatives is the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience, better known as PURE.

Each year undergraduates can apply for the prestigious PURE Awards, which provide financial research support to some of the university’s most promising students over the Spring and Summer months.

The program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to learn how to develop research projects, undertake independent research and contribute to knowledge in their respective fields.

In this Q&A series we will meet the PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts. Good luck to each of them in their research pursuits!

Name: Natasha Hoehn

Degree sought:  Archaeology

Research topic: “Child and maternal health in rural Nicaragua. We are pursuing a bio-cultural project which examines health outcomes in relation to sociocultural and environmental factors in Los Robles, Jinotega, Nicaragua. Specifically, I will be looking at biomarkers of stress in dried blood spots collected from mothers and children.”

What attracted you to this research project?  “It was an opportunity to collaborate with a welcoming community in an interesting research setting. The district of Jinotega has undergone rapid development and there has been significant changes in disease patterns in its northern communities, which are poorly understood.”

Why is this research important? “Despite significant improvements to sanitation and hygiene, the northern region of Jinotega continues to have the worst health outcomes in Nicaragua. This research has the potential to inform community based health interventions that could directly improve the lives of the residents of Los Robles.”

What do you hope to achieve with this research?  “We hope to achieve a better understanding of the poor health problems that are present in Los Robles, and obtain a clearer picture as to how they are related to the sociocultural and environmental conditions that people live in. With that information, community based interventions can be made to directly improve child and maternal health in Los Robles.”

What do you love most about your field of study?  “I love the anthropological approach in my field of study. Studying health from an anthropological perspective takes a holistic approach which acknowledges that the context surrounding an individual or community is important to understanding health outcomes. The field work methods allow researchers to spend extended periods of time with communities and build relationships that make the research more personally relevant.”

> Learn more about other PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts