Students and global health experts share their experiences working with communities.

Category: Katherine

Learning practical data analysis for strong sanitation programs in India

Picture of Katie in a kayak on a lake.

Enjoying my summer kayaking whenever I got the chance.

I worked with Gram Vikas (GV), an Indian NGO, based in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India for my practicum this summer. GV has been working in the Odisha state for the past 50 years. GV partners 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 and expand access to piped water supply and sanitation in the communities it reaches, as well as to understand and strengthen the institutional systems for community ownership and management of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) systems since 1993.

Gram Vikas recently completed a sustainability assessment survey capturing data on water and sanitation access, functionality, and management status for over 40,000 households in areas of India where Gram Vikas has worked between 1993 – 2020. Household survey data were collected between August 2018 to January 2020 covering a total of 10 districts across the Odisha state. The sample frame for the survey was a census of communities served in these districts (n = 41,586), meaning that GV attempted to collect data from each household in each community across these districts in which GV had worked.

Working with this dataset from GV has been an incredible learning experience. I have been able to learn Stata in a way that I could not have been able to otherwise. Using data collected by GV across a diverse geographic region, in combination with additional publicly available secondary data, we undertook additional analyses to support GV’s efforts to better understand what variables and factors influence service delivery, service quality, access and use, and sustainability, to strengthen service delivery, enhance equity, and expand access to sanitation across the Odisha state

Some of the challenges that came up from working with this data included my learning curve using Stata in an applied way for the first time and determining how to clean up the variables to get an accurate read. My previous class experience taught me the basics of how to use Stata, but this dataset allowed me to learn in an applied way. Using some of the resources from those classes, the expertise of Cathy Zimmer from the UNC Odem Institute, and assistance from my team I was able to get the support I needed to tackle this dataset. Some of the variables in the dataset needed to be edited to provide the best possible outcome. For example, each household answered a question what type of phone they had, but the outcome of no phone was not included in this variable. It was important that I combine them to have the full picture of what type of phone outcome each household had. I will be grouping this variable with other variables in order to create a wealth quintile in the coming months to see how wealth impacts households ability to have a toilets and bathing rooms in their home and other sanitary dependent variables.

Gorgeous sunset during my vacation to Hilton Head Island

Gorgeous sunset during my vacation to Hilton Head Island.

I have been given the opportunity to continue working on this data in the fall semester and look forward to learning more about what impacts sanitation and how GV’s interventions are helping to close these gaps.


Leveraging monitoring and evaluation for strong water, sanitation and hygiene programs in India

At the shoreline of a beach.

Taking some time to visit the coast

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.

Two computers full of data looking out into the Carolina sky.

Office with a view

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.