Ithar B. Hassaballa, MPH, Ph.D.
- Fellow, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre
Background and Professional Interests
I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department, at the American University in Cairo (AUC). I completed a bachelor’s degree in Health Education and African & African American Studies, a master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Science, and a dual degree in Behavioral Psychology (University of Kansas) and a master’s in Public Health (University of Kansas Medical Center).
I consider myself a global citizen because I have lived and worked in various countries. In the end of the day, I am Kansan since I have lived and worked in Kansas for most of my life. One of my goals is to contribute to improving conditions for health and wellbeing for as many people as I can and for as long as I can.
My research interests include: 1) Using applied behavioral methodology as a base to approach socially-significant problems, paying special attention to behavior-environment relationships; 2) Understanding social determinants of health among vulnerable populations; 3) Comprehending and improving conditions around Non-Communicable Diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes) through evaluation research and community-based participatory research; and 4) Collaborating with global partners to build capacity of a diverse and distributed workforce.
Why I chose to be engaged in this work/How I came to be engaged in this work
My interests in understanding and improving health and wellbeing for communities began at a young age. In 2012 during a WHO Internship field visit to the Kibera slums in Kenya, I realized that children did not engage in hand-washing because of the environmental barriers (e.g., no running water, soap, support) and not because of the lack of education. This realization opened my eyes and provided me a new lens that helped me view community concerns. During my graduate training in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science, I learned more about the environment in which we behave and the conditions that support or hinder the engagement of healthy behaviors. While my graduate studies provided me with new approaches to understand and address problems, I was able to apply these key learnings as part of the WHO Collaborating Centre.
My contributions to the WHO Collaborating Centre included one year as a Kansas Health Foundation Fellow (2011) and five years as a Graduate Research Assistant (2012-2017). First, my effort included providing technical assistance and program evaluation to the Bristol-Mayer’s Squibb Foundation’s Together on Diabetes initiative’s Population Health cluster, which included 15 sites across nine states [United States]. Second, I supported the development of capacity-building tools and field examples for the Africa Region since 2011. My purpose was to assure that communities have the ‘basket of tools’ needed to catalyze their community health and development efforts through the Community Tool Box and other already available resources. Finally, I provided technical assistance, consultation, monitoring, and evaluation guidance to the WHO Regional Office for Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
Description of the work I am engaged in
Beginning fall 2017, I will be teaching Introduction to Psychology and Community Psychology. As part of the Community Psychology course, I plan to work with the AUC’s Psychology Department, the WHO Collaborating Centre, and my students to contribute Community Tool Box health/development case examples from Egypt. These examples will be valuable for Community Tool Box users in the Middle East, Africa, and perhaps South America, and Asia.