They always say that the time you spend at your internship will go by quickly….and those proverbial people were right! Time is flying so fast here…
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper experience if everything we planned for actually went our way. We had backup plans and backups to the backups, but sometimes (no, all the time), reality rears its head and says “Infrastructure is important!”
In the last few weeks, I have been involved knee-deep in the ethics process of approving our research on the Indian side. It’s been a fascinating experience working with the committee and hearing their perspectives and opinions on healthcare. Now, we are waiting for final, official approval before data collection can start, which is very exciting!
In the meantime, I’ve been helping out fellow SPH HBHE student Anjuli with the another aspect of our project – technology! In my previous post, I mentioned we are using the ODK platform to collect data in the field. Anjuli is interesting in conducting usability tests to see how well the health workers like the platform, what suggestions they have to improve things and anything else they’d like to share with us. Which means more field visits for us!
Last week, we had the opportunity to visit a town about an hour west of Kolkata, called Chengail. Deep off the road, pretty much within the forest, there is a multi-story clinic.
By the time we arrived, there were many patients in the “waiting room” – a little space built across the clinic entrance:
We went all the way upstairs to where the Community Health Workers (CHW) were going to meet us. We had planned to conduct the interviews such that while Anjuli interviewed one CHW, I would just chat with the others and find out who they are and why they really wanted to become trained as CHWs. My spoken Bengali is broken at best, but I can understand it quite well. My Hindi is pretty decent, but since these communities are more rural, most people only speak in Bengali….but our system of me speaking to them in Hindi and them responding in Bengali seemed to work out!
It was a really great experience being able to talk to them. They are all so excited about being CHWs because they come from backgrounds as housewives. They all said that they were happy to be serving their friends and neighbors in what they feel is a meaningful way. Anjuli conducted the interviews about the tablet and touchscreen phone technology, and it was great watching their reactions as many of them only use keypad phones for calling and sometimes texting. After a little bit of time with the tablets, they started to feel comfortable, showing each other how to move from screen to screen.
Overall, it was an informative day. These particular women had just started their training a week to the day before we arrived, and we had the chance to sit in on one of their classes – a lesson on anemia and the importance of iron and folic acid for pregnant women. It was fascinating to see how all of the material presented to them was in Bengali – one of the women said that the only English they know, they memorize the letters/words (i.e. they see the Bengali word for anemia, and then the English anemia next to it).
The internship is an integral part of the MPH experience, and through mine so far, I’ve gotten to explore so many aspects of public health “in the flesh” – the opportunity to see our textbooks come to life is so important to building field skills, and I’m looking forward to our next two village visits to talk to more women and understand their roles in primary health care delivery.