My research on global health interventions began well before I entered academia, during my time serving as a Peace Corps volunteer and later at the United Nations in Zambia (1999-2002). This was a pivotal moment in history when ‘global health’ was solidifying as an area of research, funding, and intervention with the entrance of new actors and an unprecendented level of funding. In my roles in Peace Corps and the UN, I saw firsthand how well-intended health interventions failed. I saw them work in ways not intended. And I saw people and organization from high-income countries come in to Zambia and the ignore or diminish the knowledge and experiences of the people living in the areas where I served. In my global health work, I aim to establish long-term, on-the-ground engagement, using approaches like ethnography. In my first book, Children as Caregivers, I show how integral children are to the success of one of the largest global health interventions in the world, Directly Observed Therapy, Shortcourse for TB. Yet, my ethnographic work was the first to identify children’s roles despite the global expansiveness of this intervention.

My global health work since then has continued to identify children’s experiences and responses in difficult situations such as when working in domestic labor, when migrating for schooling, and during hospitalization for serious illness. I focus especially on children’s experiences in and outside of family care, and I specialize in examining the dependencies and interdependencies between children and adults, healthy and sick. This has led me to investigate diverse topics relevant to medicine and global health such as diagnostic delay, treatment adherence, treatment abandonment, disease disclosure and communication, stigma, caregiving, and more.

I believe in establishing long-lasting partnerships in global health, which is why I have concentrated my work in Zambia for more than 20 years.

Select funded projects

Drawing Out Migration project (with wustl collaborators- EA Quinn and Geoff Childs)

Child trafficking UNICEF

Select peer reviewed publications

Hunleth J. Zambian Children’s Imaginal Caring: On Fantasy, Play, and Anticipation in an Epidemic. Cultural Anthropology. 2019;34(2).

Muthukrishnan M, Sutcliffe S, Hunleth JM, Wang JS, Colditz GA, James AS. Conducting a randomized trial in rural and urban safety-net health centers: Added value of community-based participatory research. Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2018;10:29-35. PMCID:PMC5898527 PMID:29696155

Hunleth J. Children as Caregivers: The Global Fight against Tuberculosis and HIV in Zambia. Newark, Rutgers University Press 2017.

Ager A, Zimmerman C, Unlu K, Rinehart R, Nyberg B, Zeanah C, Hunleth J, Bastiaens I, Weldy A, Bachman G, Blum AB, Strottman K. What strategies are appropriate for monitoring children outside of family care and evaluating the impact of the programs intended to serve them? Child Abuse Negl. 2012;36(10):732-42. PMID:23083900

Hunleth J, Jacob RR, Cole SM, Bond V, James AS. School holidays: examining childhood, gender norms, and kinship in children’s shorter-term residential mobility in urban Zambia. Child Geogr. 2015;13(5):501-517. PMCID:PMC4586129 PMID:26435699

Hunleth J. Children’s roles in tuberculosis treatment regimes: constructing childhood and kinship in urban Zambia. Med Anthropol Q. 2013;27(2):292-311. PMCID:PMC3707965 PMID:23804398 (Awarded the 2014 Steven Polgar award from the Society for Medical Anthropology for its originality, theoretical importance, and methodology)

Hunleth J. Beyond on or with: Questioning power dynamics and knowledge production in ‘child-oriented’ research methodology. Childhood. 2011;18(1):81-93. doi: 

Bond V, Chilikwela L, Simwinga M, Reade Z, Ayles H, Godfrey-Faussett P, Hunleth J. Children’s role in enhanced case finding in Zambia. IJTLD. 2010;14(10):1280-1287.

Awards and media attention

2018 Elliott Skinner Book Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology