Lia C. Haskin Fernald PhD, MBA

Director, MPH in Public Health Nutrition
PhD in Population Health Sciences
Professor, Community Health Sciences
  • Fulbright Scholar - Jamaica
  • PhD - University of London
  • MBA - UC Berkeley
  • BA - Swarthmore College
  • PH118: Global Nutrition
  • PH206A: U.S. Food and Nutrition Programs and Policies
  • PH206D: Global Food and Nutrition Programs and Policies
  • PH207A: Public Health Aspects of Maternal and Child Nutrition
  • PH206: Current Issues in Public Health Nutrition
  • PH298.56: Public Health Nutrition Integrated Learning Experience
  • PH292: Doctoral Seminar
Research Interests: 
  • Development and evaluation of interventions to improve lives of vulnerable children
  • Exploring psychosocial, ecological, and biological determinants of health
  • Obesity, overweight, and nutritional and epidemiologic transition
  • Malnutrition, international child health and development
  • Immigrant health, inequalities and health disparities
  • Early experiences, stress hormones, salivary cortisol
Research Description: 

My research program is focused on questions at the intersection of socio-economic status, health and development in low- and middle-income countries.  My overarching goal is to change the trajectories of vulnerable individuals, particularly children living in poverty, through systemic, strategic, and effective interventions. My research focuses on how interventions can address socio-economic disparities and their related outcomes.  I have developed the following strengths which will contribute to the current proposal: (1) Several active research studies worldwide and over 100 publications relating to child development, nutritional status and global health, with articles published in top journals in the field, including The Lancet, Pediatrics, International Journal of Epidemiology, Journal of Nutrition, Social Science and Medicine, Developmental Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Economic Development and Cultural Change, and the American Journal of Public Health along with many others; (2) Extensive research and a depth of knowledge relating to interdisciplinary data collection and analysis of childhood development primarily in low-and middle income countries; (3) Experience adapting and modifying measurement tools in child development to be appropriate and relevant in those cultural contexts (e.g. Mexico, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Malawi, Kenya).  I have established an extensive network of academics and policy makers as I have worked toward my personal goal of changing the trajectories of vulnerable individuals, particularly children living in poverty, through systemic, strategic and effective interventions. Some recent, illustrative, and significant publications include:

  1. Fernald, L.C.H., Gertler, P.J., and Neufeld, L.M.  Ten-year impact of Oportunidades – Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program – on child growth, cognition, language and behavior.  The Lancet 374(9706): 1997-2005 (2009). PMID: 19892392.
  2. Fernald, L.C.H., Prado, E., Kariger, P., and Raikes, A.  A Toolkit for Measuring Early Childhood Development (2017).  Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Available at:
  3. Tofail, F., Fernald, L.C.H., Das, K.K., Rahman, M., Unicomb, L., Arnold, B.F., Ashraf, S., Winch, P.J., Kariger, P.K., Stewart, C.P., Colford, J.M., Luby, S.P.  The effects of single and combined water, sanitation, hand washing and nutrition interventions on developmental outcomes of young children in rural Bangladesh. Lancet Child and Adolescent Health (2018)
Current Projects: 

1. Interventions to address health and nutrition disparities. I am interested in assessing large scale policy-level and economic interventions – such as conditional cash transfer programs, microcredit interventions, and nutrition interventions – and how they affect nutrition, health, and development in children and adults. I am interested not only in the effects of each intervention as a whole, but I also want to understand how particular sub-components of economic and policy-level interventions function independently to affect physical and mental health and how contextual factors modify the impact of interventions. Given the great disparities in the prevalence of conditions such as under- and over-nutrition, the most vulnerable populations (e.g. children, minorities, indigenous or low-income populations, immigrants, families that are food insecure) are at highest risk. In this line of work, I have focused primarily on the identification of factors that can be changed, such as economic circumstances, access to economic credit and provision of preventive health interventions; however, I have also been interested in identifying and understanding factors that increase vulnerability but cannot be changed (e.g. gender, ethnicity), with the hope that interventions can then use a more targeted approach to reach these sub-groups.  

  1. Fernald, L.C.H., Gertler, P.J. and Neufeld, L.M.  Role of cash in conditional cash transfer programmes for child health, growth and development: An analysis of Mexico’s Oportunidades.  The Lancet 371: 828-837 (2008). PMC2779574.
  2. Fernald, L.C.H. and Hidrobo, M.  Effect of Ecuador’s cash transfer program (Bono de Desarrollo Humano) on child development in infants and toddlers: A randomized effectiveness trial.  Social Science and Medicine (2011) May;72(9):1437-46. PMID: 21531060.
  3. Hamad, R. and Fernald, L.C.H. Microcredit Participation and Women's Health: Results from a Cross-Sectional Study in Peru. International Journal for Equity in Health (2015)  Aug 5; 14:62 PMID: 26242582.
  4. Britto, P.R., Lye, S., Proulx, K., Bhutta, Z., Matthews, S., Perez-Escamilla, R., Yousafzai, A., Rao, N., Ip, P., Fernald, L.C.H., McMillan, H., Hanson, M., Wachs, T., Yao, H., Cerezo, A.  Enrichment, Nurturing Care and Protection: What works in Early Childhood Development. The Lancet (2017)  Jan 7;389(10064):91-102
  5. Rehkopf, D.H., Burmaster K, Landefeld J, Adler-Milstein S, Flynn E, Acevedo MC, Jones-Smith J, Adler N, Fernald L.C.H.  The impact of a private sector living wage intervention on cardiovascular disease risk factors in a middle income country. BMC Public Health (2018)

2. Socioeconomic status, physical and mental health. My second line of research addresses the question of how socio-economic status relates to physical and mental health by examining nutritional conditions such as under-nutrition, iron-deficiency, and obesity – all of which are highly prevalent in middle income countries in Latin America going through “nutrition transition”– and the associations of these factors with individual, household and community characteristics. To address this research question, I have taken a population health perspective, which is an inherently inter- and trans-disciplinary approach and reflects my commitment to understanding nutrition and nutrition-related conditions as an interaction among key variables including: context (e.g., economic, physical, social, and cultural environments) and behavior (e.g., food intake, activity).  

  1. Fernald, L.C.H. and Adler, N.E.  Blood pressure and socio-economic status in low-income women in Mexico: a reverse gradient?  Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 62: e8 (2008). PMID: 18431833.
  2. Fernald, L.C.H. and Gunnar, M.R.  Effects of a poverty alleviation intervention on salivary cortisol in very low-income children. Social Science and Medicine Jun 68(12):2180-9 (2009).  PMC2768580.
  3. Jones-Smith, J.C., Neufeld, L.M., Laraia, B., Ramakrishnan, U., Garcia-Guerra, A. and Fernald, L.C.H.  Early life growth trajectories and future risk for overweight.  Nutrition and Diabetes (2013) Feb 4;3:e60. PMID: 23381665.
  4. Landefeld, J.C., Burmaster, K.B., Rehkopf, D.H., Syme, S.L., Lahiff, M., Adler-Milstein, S., Fernald, L.C.H. The association between a living wage on subjective social status and self-rated health: a quasi-experimental study in the Dominican Republic. Social Science and Medicine (2014) Nov; 121:91-7.  PMID: 25442370.

3. Poverty, health & development. I seek to understand the conditions and resources that help protect individuals from the consequences of poor nutrition – such as poor mental or physical health – despite living in poverty or in other adverse circumstances. Although my work has focused primarily on the identification of factors that can be changed, such as economic circumstances, access to credit and provision of preventive health interventions, it has also focused on identifying factors that increase vulnerability but cannot be changed (e.g. gender, ethnicity), with the hope that interventions can then use a more targeted approach to reach these sub-groups.  

  1. Golden C.D., Fernald, L.C., Brashares, J.S., Rasolofoniaina, B.J. and Kremen C.  Benefits of wildlife consumption to child nutrition in a biodiversity hotspot.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) (2011) 108(49): 19653-6.  PMC3241784.
  2. Fernald, L.C.H., Kagawa, R.C., Knauer, H., Garcia Guerra, A., Schnaas, L., and Neufeld, L.  Promoting child development through group-based parenting support within a cash transfer program: Experimental effects on children’s outcomes.  Developmental Psychology (2017).  Feb;53(2):222-236 PMID: 27748620.
  3. Burmaster, K., Landefeld, J., Rehkopf, D.H., Flynn, E., Hidrobo, M., Acevedo, M.C., and Fernald L.C.H.  The impact of a private sector living wage intervention on household income, spending, savings, and debt among apparel workers: a quasi-experimental study.  BMJ Open (2015) Aug 3; 5(8):e007336 PMID: 26238394.
  4. Knauer, H., Kagawa, R.C., Garcia Guerra, A., Schnaas, L., Neufeld, L., and Fernald, L.C.H.  Pathways to improved child development: An examination of parenting behaviors and home environment in a randomized effectiveness trial in rural Mexico. Int. J Behav. Devel. (2016)
  5. Black, M.M., Walker, S.M., Fernald, L.C.H., Grantham-McGregor, S.M., Andersen, C., DiGirolamo, A., Lu, C., McCoy, D.C., Fink, G., Devercelli, A., and Wodon, Q.  Early Child Development Coming of Age: From Science To Practice. The Lancet (2017)  Jan 7;389(10064):77-90

4. Child development in low-income contexts. The core team for this project consists of Dr. Emanuela Galasso (economist, the World Bank), Dr. Ann Weber (epidemiologist, Center for Infant Studies, Stanford University), and Dr. Christine Stewart (nutritionist, UC Davis Department of International Nutrition).  We also work in close collaboration with Dr. Lisy Ratsifandrihamanana, a developmental psychologist in Madagascar and with Harold Alderman (IFPRI), who contributed to the brainstorming about the design of the RCT.

  1. Fernald, L.C.H., Galasso, E., Qamruddin, J., Ranaivoson, C., Ratsifandrihamanana, L., Stewart, C., Weber, A.  A cluster-randomized controlled trial of nutritional supplementation and promotion of responsive parenting in Madagascar: the MAHAY study design and rationale.  BMC Public Health (2016) PMID: 27255923.
  2. Weber, A.M., Fernald, L.C.H., Galasso, E. and Ratsifandrihamanana, L.  Performance of a Receptive Language Test among Young Children in Madagascar.  PLoS One (2015) Apr 1;10(4):e0121767. PMID: 25830221.
  3. Fernald, L.C.H., Weber, A., Galasso, E., and Ratsifandrihamanana, L.  Socio-economic gradients and child development in a very low income population: Evidence from Madagascar.  Developmental Science. (2011) Jul;14(4):832-47. PMID: 21676102.
  4. Galasso, E., Fernald, L.C.H., Weber, A.M.  Dynamics of child development: Socio-economic gradients in a longitudinal cohort living in extreme poverty. The World Bank Economic Review (2017).

Newly funded projects

RINEW: Research on Integration of Nutrition Early Childhood Development WASH in Bangladesh

Collaborators: Rahman, M., Luby, S., Tofail, F.

Source:  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Goals: Conduct a rigorous, multi-arm randomized controlled trial of a range of methods to support community health workers to optimize child growth and development in rural Bangladesh.  

Dates of Approved Project:  6/1/16 – 5/31/21

Inter-generational effects of deworming in Kenya

Collabroators: Miguel, E., Kariger, P.

Source:  National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development

Goals: Examine effects inter-generational effects of deworming by testing children of parents who had been enrolled in a school-based deworming program during childhood in Kenya.  

Dates of Approved Project:  8/1/17 – 2/28/22

Promoting Parenting Support through Group-based support in Kenya

Collaborators: Luoto, J., Lopez Garcia, I., Aboud, F.

Source:  National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development

Goals: Examine effects of innovative parenting program on early child development.  

Dates of Approved Project:  6/1/17 – 12/31/22

An Evaluation of the Common Application System (CAS) in India

Collaborators: Nimmagadda, S., Gopalkrishnan, L., Avula, R., Diamond-Smith, N., Jain, A., Mani, S., Menon, P., Nguyen, P. H., Park, H., Patil, S., Singh, P., and Walker, D.

Source:  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Goals: Conduct a rigorous evaluation of a tablet-based support tool for community health workers to identify and manage severe malnutrition in India.  

Dates of Approved Project:  7/1/16 –6/30/20

Promoting early literacy through storybooks in Kenya

Collaborators: Knauer, H., Jakiela, P., Ozier, O., Aboud, F.

Source:  SIEF – Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, World Bank

Goals: Conduct a multi-arm randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of storybook distribution in western Kenya as an approach to improve school readiness among young children.  

Dates of Approved Project:  7/1/14 – 12/31/20

Selected Publications: 
Profile Updated: November 15, 2018