The challenge: To find an effective treatment for diarrheal diseases, which cause 1.3 million childhood deaths each year.
The work: Through studying the interaction of infectious diseases and nutrition, Black discovered that introducing zinc replenishment could both treat and prevent diarrhea.
Why it matters: Zinc replacement in childhood diarrhea is now the standard WHO and UNICEF recommended treatment.
Robert E. Black, MD, MPH is the Edgar Berman Professor and Chair of the Department of International Health and Director of the Institute for International Programs of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He trained in medicine, infectious diseases and epidemiology and has served as a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Black has worked at institutions in Bangladesh and Peru on research related to childhood infectious diseases and nutritional problems.
Dr. Black’s current research includes field trials of vaccines, micronutrients and other nutritional interventions, effectiveness studies of health programs (such as the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness approach), and evaluation of preventive and curative health service programs in low- and middle-income countries. His other interests are related to the use of evidence in policy and programs, including estimates of burden of disease, the development of research capacity and the strengthening of public health training.
As a member of the US Institute of Medicine, advisory bodies of the World Health Organization, and the International Vaccine Institute, among others, Dr. Black assists with the development of policies to improve child health. He currently chairs the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group and the Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative. He has projects in Bangladesh, Benin, Ghana, India, Mali, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe. He has submissions in more than 450 scientific journal publications and is co-editor of the textbook “International Public Health.”