ScholarWorks Spotlight: Celebrating the Human Side of Research - Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo

By Candice Benjes-Small - Head of Research

In this series, we are spotlighting researchers who have contributed to W&M ScholarWorks, our institutional repository. We asked each researcher to identify a scholarly work and share the “human story” behind it. Who are the people behind the data and theory, and how were they affected by the scholarship?   

We hope you will enjoy learning more about what happens “behind the scenes” of research, and that it encourages you to explore the collections in W&M ScholarWorks. 

If you are interested in being part of the series or contributing to ScholarWorks, please contact your librarian liaison.

An interview with Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo

Explain your publication in a tweet. 

Having higher numbers of women as legislators in African countries leads to more budgetary allocation to health and better health outcomes for countries, and this is an important benefit for such countries which generally have some of the worst health outcomes in the world. 

What inspired this piece? 

My personal experience as a Senator in Nigeria.  As one of only 8 female Senators, I found that when we women discussed Bills we were working on, the approach and input was usually very much towards looking at issues from the angle of how it benefits society at large and I found that such input was lacking when having the same discussion with mixed groups of men and women and the men seem to drift more towards seeing the issue as it benefits them or some group they belong to, so I wanted to find out if my anecdotal experience was backed by research and found that this was so and specifically for health. Esther Duflo who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019, had done some foundational work in India which showed that women village heads prioritized health, education and sanitation in India versus male village leaders who prioritized infrastructure and construction.  The influence of women leadership on improving health has since then been found in other studies and this association is especially strong for low-income countries and was also associated with having more female legislators. Since I had been the Chair of the Health Committee in the Senate and I had pushed for more money to be spent on health through a National Health Bill and to have significant annual increases in the national health budget, I wondered if this was how the health effect attributed to female legislators was achieved. 

How does your book chapter connect to your research interests? 

My research interests are on health outcomes in low and middle-income countries and on health outcomes of uninsured and underinsured in the US and how to intervene to improve health outcomes of people living in poverty by influencing social determinants of health.  This article connects with my research interests in that it looks at health outcomes, mainly maternal mortality in Africa, which has countries with the worst health outcomes in the world.  It examines how a social change of allowing more women in leadership can improve health outcomes at population level. 

Articles and book chapters archived in ScholarWorks are findable through Google and can reach a larger audience. Find out how to add your works to the institutional repository by talking to your liaison librarian.