Through Grant, Dr. Olorunsaiye to Study Family Planning in African Immigrant Communities

By Caitlin Burns | November 30, 2020

Dr. Comfort Olorunsaiye, assistant professor of Public Health, was awarded a Changemakers in Family Planning grant by the Society of Family Planning Research Fund to study family planning in the African immigrant communities in southeastern Pennsylvania. 

The 18-month, $63,148 cumulative training grant allows Dr. Olorunsaiye to focus on developing her research on understanding the perceived risk of an unintended pregnancy and how that could affect contraceptive behavior. While most of the research development for this grant is planned to be done virtually because of Covid-19, Dr. Olorunsaiye hopes to do some in-person community outreach if it becomes possible. 

In addition to covering the cost of protected time for research development, the grant also includes cost allowances for two mentors throughout the grant period. Dr. Olorunsaiye’s first mentor is Dr. Larisa Brunner Huber, professor of Epidemiology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who was also her PhD advisor and chair of her dissertation project. The second mentor will be selected with the help of the Society of Family Planning Research Fund. 

Dr. Olorunsaiye specializes in women’s reproductive and maternal/child health, which she said comes from her work as a pharmacist in her home country of Nigeria.

“During that period I started to interact more with the community,” said Dr. Olorunsaiye. “Just from observing how youth would come to look for Plan B—they’re trying to prevent pregnancy, and nobody is talking about sexually transmitted infections. So, I began to hold informal education sessions within the community.”

Dr. Olorunsaiye noted how friends and family losing children to preventative illnesses and pregnancies has also spurred her career path. One of her published research projects in 2017 examined how women’s tolerance of domestic violence affected contraceptive behavior in West and Central Africa. She has also led the development of a five-year evaluation plan for a US government flagship program in Ghana to establish a second year of life vaccination platform while working at the CDC before coming to Arcadia University in 2018.

“All of these experiences have shaped my research and focused my interest on issues that affect the health of women, as in many cases these are people who do not have a voice in society,” said Dr. Olorunsaiye. “I can help communities make informed decisions on issues that affect their health outcomes. It’s a combination of all of these different experiences that gave birth to my interest.”