Recife is the capital city of Pernambuco, a northeastern state in Brazil — and one of the regions most affected by the Zika virus outbreak.
Natalie Williams, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies, and Christine Marvin, professor of special education and communication disorders, recently traveled to Recife, Brazil, as part of a joint study with Brazilian researchers at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco.
The international research team is exploring how to support families and educators affected by Congenital Zika Virus Syndrome, a neurological condition associated with cognitive and physical disabilities. Their research is part of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln/Brazil Early Childhood Initiative.
While in Brazil, Williams and Marvin led training sessions with four graduate students at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco. These students will interview 100 caregivers whose young children have disabilities related to Congenital Zika Virus Syndrome — information that will help researchers understand caregivers’ stressors and available resources, building a foundation for future interventions.
The Nebraska team also presented details about its study to a group of doctors, medical students, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists at the Professor Fernando Figueira Integral Medicine Institute (IMIP) in Recife, where most of the study’s data will be collected.
During a meeting with IMIP’s president, the team learned its study complements the institute’s focus on mother-child family medicine and could be a starting place for future research collaborations.
“We were told that, out of the many international research teams who have come to Brazil to study the Zika outbreak, our Nebraska team represents one of only two groups studying how families are affected,” Marvin said.
Williams and Marvin also toured IMIP’s rehabilitation services and hospital, and the Altino Ventura Foundation’s rehabilitation center, which provides weekly services to more than 200 families with children affected by Congenital Zika Virus Syndrome.
“The care that these families receive is impressive,” Williams said. “It is remarkable how quickly both hospitals were able to adapt, and in some cases, dramatically scale up their existing services, to meet the immediate developmental needs of children affected by the Zika virus.”
The study includes Williams; Pompéia Villachan-Lyra and Emmanuelle Chaves, professors of education and psychology at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco; Marvin; and Cody Hollist, associate professor at UNL. It is supported by UNL and the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, and is housed in CYFS.
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