Int’l Women’s Day: Fathima Wakeel to present at Women in Data Science Conference


Wakeel, from Lehigh University’s College of Health, will discuss how to frame population health disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic using maternal and child health epidemiological approaches at the ‘Data Science for Social Good’ Panel


Credit: Lehigh University College of Health

Lehigh University College of Health faculty member, Fathima Wakeel, will present at the virtual Women in Data Science GM Multiregional Conference 2021 on International Women’s Day, this Monday, March 8, 2021. The event is organized by General Motors as part of Stanford University’s annual WiDS Worldwide conference involving an estimated 150+ locations worldwide and featuring “outstanding women doing outstanding work in the field of data science.”

Wakeel, associate professor and director of graduate programs, will open the “Data Science for Social Good” session at 1:00 pm with her talk: “Framing population health disparities during COVID-19 Pandemic Using Maternal and Child Health Epidemiological Approaches.”

Her presentation will address how maternal and child health theory and methods can inform multidisciplinary data science practices to improve the health of individuals across the life course and promote health equity among all segments of the population.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income individuals, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with underlying chronic physical and mental health conditions,” says Wakeel. “While services are focused on responding to the immediate needs of communities?and rightly so? we have an opportunity to harness data to examine the long-term and multidimensional impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and leverage that data to improve health outcomes.”

Among the approaches Wakeel will propose during her presentation are: investing in longitudinal research; examining and linking multiple determinants of health; applying a systems thinking approach; validating measures among vulnerable groups and focusing on optimizing health and resilience.

“It is particularly important to shift our focus as population health researchers from risk to protective factors and resilience in communities,” says Wakeel. “Instead of solely seeking to minimize risk, we must invest in promoting optimal and holistic health trajectories and take into consideration the relationships between individual, interpersonal, community and systemic level factors that impact health.”

Wakeel has twenty years of academic and research training in the Maternal and Child Health field. She is one of the first researchers to conceptualize and operationalize the construct of personal capital and examine its relationships with stress and adverse obstetric outcomes.

“My long-term research goal is to conceptualize and measure personal capital, which women may draw upon to help reduce their exposure to or cope with stress and achieve healthy perinatal outcomes,” says Wakeel. “Importantly, by learning what these resources are, how they may differ among different cultural, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic groups of women, and how they develop across the life course, we can develop programs and policies that help build personal capital among vulnerable groups of women and ultimately promote health equity at the population level.”


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