By Shannon Applegate
In February, I bought a plane ticket to travel across the world to embark on a 10-week research experience. In March, the world shut down. This pandemic is a true representation of how connected, yet disconnected we are as a human race. The coronavirus has impacted every country but misinformation, denial, and lack of unity between countries persists. Public health research and interventions are needed now more than ever as this virus affects so many and health disparities increase.
Many people, including me, are now having to transition to working from home. I had originally planned to travel to Cebu, Philippines this summer to complete a research project at the Office of Population Studies (OPS) at the University of San Carlos. While I am no longer able to travel to Cebu to complete a formal qualitative research component, I will still be researching the same topic using data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS), a collaboration project between UNC Chapel Hill and the University of San Carlos. The CLHNS is an ongoing study that has over 30 years of data from a now multigenerational cohort. The longitudinal study covers a wide range of topics including infant feeding practices, reproductive histories, socioeconomic factors, environmental factors, schooling outcomes, and more. With the mentorship of Dr. Linda Adair, I will be exploring the primary barriers to exclusive breastfeeding within this cohort. The unique multigenerational study will allow me to look at determinants of breastfeeding, such as education attainment and household income level, across generations and time.
The current pandemic has caused this internship to look a bit different than expected, including using Zoom regularly to meet with Dr. Adair to discuss my project. We are able to share screens to look at the data sets together in Stata. I complete my work at home at my kitchen table where I am lucky enough to have reliable Wi-Fi, a laptop, and a quiet environment to focus. I like to split up my day by taking my dog on walks through nearby neighborhoods and trails and enjoying an afternoon tea or coffee. I am excited to continue my research and am thankful that I am still able to complete this internship during the pandemic.