Aliya Hussaini, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

TITLE: Health Team Lead

FUNDING AREAS: Childhood obesity prevention and wellness

CONTACT: aliya.hussaini@msdf.org, 512-600-5501

IP TAKE: A lot of the money out flowing from Hussaini's program goes directly to hospitals and medical research centers, but she doesn't seem entirely unamenable to the idea of working through other types of venues to promote awareness of childhood obesity too.

PROFILE: Aliya Hussaini, M.D. is in charge of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation's efforts to fight childhood obesity. And, yes, it is a bit more complicated than walking around and slapping cheeseburgers out of kids' hands. Through this initiative, Dell primarily funds projects that raise awareness of the obesity epidemic currently afflicting American children. The program also works to increase access to quality food and safe areas to exercise for kids and their families.

Hussaini received her bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in biology and economics and her medical degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also received an M.S. in health policy research and attended the Robert Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Hussaini completed a pediatrics residency at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital in Connecticut and subsequently held a position at the Department of State Health Services in Texas.

Hussaini's grantmaking is focused primarily in Austin (where she is also a practicing pediatrician) and the state of Texas, although money occasionally finds its way to Chicago and New York City. Some goes to national projects as well.

For great insight into what engages Hussaini and what the foundation, read Hussaini's discussions about their work in Dove Springs. Its a Texas community they chose to study childhood obesity prevention and implement programs that can affect change.

Some other insightful giving and engagement:

In February 2011, the foundation gave $3.7 million over three years to the University of Texas Health (UTHealth) Science Center at Houston to develop a more comprehensive platform for research on child health. The money allowed the center to assemble a community advisory board and helped it "to have a dramatic impact on child health and obesity in Texas and across the country," according to Steven Kelder, a codirector at the center. UTHealth got off the ground with a $2 million grant from Dell in 2006.

In another move, as part of a $4.8 million public health campaign set up by Dell through its obesity initiative, Hussaini put up $300,000 for a joint project between HBO Entertainment, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce a series of documentary films entitled Weight of the Nation. It aired in May 2012. The first section of the series discusses the consequences of obesity; the second reviews scientific research on weight loss; the third focuses on how the disease impacts children; and the fourth outlines the major causes of obesity.

On the Dell Foundation's blog, Hussaini writes, "We live in a culture that makes health hard." As a scholar, her work focused on the social context of obesity as well. During her time as a Woods scholar, she coauthored an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health called "Adolescent Obesity as a Risk Factor for High-Level Nicotine Addiction in Young Women." Here, Hussaini and her cowriters argue that "[o]bese, adolescent females are at increased risk for high-level nicotine addiction in young adulthood as compared with their nonobese peers." Factors such as coming from a smoking household and receiving bad grades compound the risk.

Hussaini's child obesity program awards grants that "promote effective, sustainable and scalable childhood obesity prevention strategies." The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation accepts ongoing grant applications via its website.