Lonnie Embleton, Institute of Medical Science
Student Name: Lonnie Embleton
Supervisor: Dr. Paula Braitstein, Associate Professor and CIHR Research Chair of Applied Public Health
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Rupert Kaul, Professor and Division Director, Division of Infectious Diseases
Title: Adapting and Piloting a Combined Gender, Livelihoods, and HIV Prevention Intervention with Street-connected Young People in Eldoret, Kenya
Overview: Youth who find themselves living and working on the streets in Kenya are highly vulnerable to acquiring HIV due to numerous factors including being precariously housed, poverty, gender inequities, and economic marginalization. Yet, very few evidence-based interventions exist for street-connected young people in sub-Saharan Africa to ameliorate their circumstances and to address these complex issues, which heighten their vulnerability to acquiring HIV. My doctoral research used community-based research methods with street-connected young people to adapt and pilot an existing intervention called Stepping Stones and Creating Futures, focused on gender, livelihoods, and sexual and reproductive health. Our adapted intervention ‘Stepping Stones ya Mshefa na Kujijenga Kimaisha’ (Stepping Stones for Street Youth and Build Your Life Up) integrated a microfinance component, which was an informal savings account that matched participants' savings contributions conditional on their attendance at the intervention. After participating in the intervention, we found that street-connected young people significantly improved their HIV knowledge, gender equitable attitudes, increased their earnings, and some had secured housing and commenced income generating activities. Overall my dissertation research identified practical strategies for working with street-connected young people that can be used by stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers in resource-constrained countries to reduce social and health inequities, which leave them highly vulnerable to acquiring HIV.
After commencing my PhD at the Institute of Medical Science in the fall of 2015, I was selected as a prestigious Canadian Vanier Scholar in 2017. My PhD research built upon work I had been leading over a number of years in Eldoret, Kenya through the AMPATH Consortium and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital with vulnerable children and youth that had identified numerous health, social, and economic issues facing street-connected children and youth that urgently required interventions to address. To conduct this research, I received a highly competitive International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Doctoral Research Award which funded my field work in Kenya to adapt and pilot the multi-faceted intervention.
To date, I have authored 20 peer-reviewed publications, including 14 as a first author, and two systematic reviews that garnered international media attention. After graduating, I returned to Eldoret, Kenya as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health to see through some research and projects that were on-going. I am also currently an Associate Editor at BMC International Health and Human Rights. In the coming years I hope to continue to produce valuable research to reduce inequities and improve the health and well-being of marginalized and vulnerable populations. I am dedicated to and passionate about global health initiatives in Canada and abroad and aim to become a Canadian leader in global health research and practice.