Meet the team
Dr Jayagowri Sastry
Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct)
History demonstrates that working as one world community, we can eradicate disease.
Driven by a passion for improving human health and championing health equity, senior research fellow Dr Jayagowri Sastry has been working in the area of women’s health for over two decades. Dr Sastry’s focus on women’s health lies in its ability to improve not only the health of women, but the children’s and family’s as well.
Dr Sastry, who trained as a Doctor of Medicine in Preventive and Social Medicine (Community Medicine) in India, and also holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Johns Hopkins University, USA, says that targeting women lifts entire communities – which is particularly important in resource poor settings.
Currently, Dr Sastry is developing an Indian government funded curriculum on Respectful Maternal Care (RMC) for health professionals in Puducherry, India. She is engaging with communities in a rights-based approach to increase awareness and demand for RMC in South Asia. In addition, Dr Sastry is piloting a novel approach to increase the access of contraceptives within vulnerable populations in India, with a view to scaling the approach in other low-middle income settings.
At the beginning of her global health career, Dr Sastry was awarded a Fogarty Fellowship – a program which funds research training opportunities in low- and middle-income countries – and as a result set up an international trial site in Pune, India.
Following this, Dr Sastry worked on a large multi-country clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to prevent HIV transmission from infected mothers to their breastfeeding infants.
“I started with the dilemma of having to advocate for breastfeeding, despite a 5-20% risk of transmitting HIV through breast milk to the infant,” recalls Dr Sastry.
“Our studies prior to the trial clearly showed that infants born to HIV-infected mothers who do not breastfeed, have significantly higher morbidity and mortality, than those who were breastfed,” Dr Sastry explains.
Following the trial, India adopted an HIV treatment plan which involved protecting infants with anti-retroviral therapy, while allowing them to obtain the benefits of breast milk. The World Health Organization (WHO) used the trial findings to formulate their breastfeeding policy in the context of HIV in low-middle income countries.
Dr Sastry believes that the trial is a meaningful example of the value of global cooperation and believes that harnessing the global village is required to address today’s many and varied health challenges.
Dr Sastry says that health issues do not respect borders or boundaries. And given the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, mental health problems, and climate change related health issues across countries of all income levels, working together is necessary.
“We will simply have to collaborate internationally if we want to improve health globally,” Dr Sastry says.
“History demonstrates that working as one world community, we can eradicate and eliminate infections, for example, smallpox and polio.”
Despite the global work Dr Sastry believes is required, she also espouses action at a local level, saying “communities need to be aware of ways to promote their own health.”
Dr Sastry is inspired by the communities she works with and for, and by the women who show extraordinary courage to overcome major challenges.