Happy Summer! My name is Katie Hammer a current MPH candidate at the Gillings School of Public Health, concentrating in Environmental Health Solutions. Before beginning my studies at UNC, I worked for three years at Abt Associates as a member of several health system strengthening project teams. I discovered the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector while working as a Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst on a $150 million USAID- funded private health sector project. Through our work, I began to see how poor WASH infrastructure and systems impacted all areas of public health, from maternal and child health outcomes to the spread of infectious diseases like malaria and cholera. I quickly realized this was the area I wanted to specialize in moving forward. It’s actually part of the reason I chose to study at UNC – I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from and partake in The Water Institute’s great work!
Working as a Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst also taught me the value of data. I managed the project’s monitoring platform, Newdea, for 11 field countries and 3 core teams, ensuring the project had a high-quality data monitoring system. I empowered country teams to look across their past data to find trends and patterns through effective data management. I fell in love with working with teams to facilitate data-driven implementation and impact.
As part of my practicum, I will have the opportunity to build on those experiences. I’ll have the privilege to partner with Gram Vikas, an Indian NGO, Gram who has been operating in the Odisha district in Eastern India for the past 50 years. They partner with rural communities to enable them to lead a dignified life by building their capabilities, strengthening community institutions and mobilizing resources. Gram Vikas has been working to understand the piped water supply and sanitation infrastructure as well as the institutional systems for community ownership and management of the systems since 1997. Their hard work has culminated in massive amounts of data, over 40,000 households worth.
I will collaborate with Gram Vikas and The Water Institute at UNC to evaluate their piped water and sanitation interventions for sustainability and impact. We will also look into how other variables are impacting these sanitation systems. We will be using local rainfall data, Indian Census data, and Odisha’s State of Environment data to get a broader picture of Gram Vikas’ impact.
I am excited to learn how to use new analysis processes to get more in-depth insights into programmatic impact. I am particularly interested in learning more about the use of geospatial analysis when manipulating large datasets. I hope that through these analyses, we will be able to provide Gram Vikas valuable insights that will inform their work for years to come! I am deeply grateful to both Gram Vikas and The Water Institute at UNC for this opportunity. This practicum wouldn’t be possible without The Water Institute at UNC, as the expertise this institute provides was key in making the connection for this practicum.