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

Category: Liana

Maybe it’s nearing the end or maybe it’s just the beginning

When I started this practicum in the middle of May, I had originally planned for this coming week to be my last week. I recently decided, along with my team, to extend the end date since the really interesting part is just beginning. Although the past couple of weeks have been filled with data cleaning, I am finally ready to begin the analyses we proposed as the basis of my practicum. We are using data from a household survey and combining it with data from health facilities across Zambia in order to gain a more holistic understanding of the services, equipment, and patient satisfaction with the country’s health care system. To our knowledge, this comprehensive picture of health facilities and services has not been examined before; prior research has focused on either just the health facility capacity/readiness or just the consumer experience.

Although I will likely have more final thoughts in the coming weeks, I am grateful to have been a part of this project and team. At the start of the practicum, I learned about antenatal care/nutrition recommendations and health facility quality measures, as well as gained a better understanding of the amount of work and careful organization required to select the variables of interest. These variables are the basis for our exploratory analyses and due to the nature of real-life data, have provided me with an opportunity to learn about and practice more advanced statistical methods. Our ultimate goal is to run a series of statistical models to better understand client satisfaction with antenatal care as well as growth, monitoring and promotion services. We will then publish a paper to share our findings.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from this practicum is the value of “thinking outside the box.” Doing so has helped my preceptor, Dr. Stephanie Martin, and I, organize our thoughts about which variables to use and how to carry out the analyses, it helped us overcome some issues with a messy dataset and methodological concerns (e.g. missing values, yes/no questions, issues merging datasets, lots of interesting variables to explore, etc.), and it prompted our research questions. Although I am nearing the end of my practicum, I also feel as though it is just the beginning. I look forward to digging further into the data to see what sorts of discoveries can be made, and using those to circle back to the big picture of reducing childhood stunting and understanding health care satisfaction and quality in Zambia. I hope our findings will not only be informative and worthwhile to the Zambian government and USAID, but will help others conducting similar research.

– Liana

My (Global Health) Practicum During a Pandemic

My favorite running spot (Merritt’s Pasture)!

My favorite running spot (Merritt’s Pasture)!

Despite having gotten used to all the Zoom meetings and working/going to classes remotely, it was disappointing to know my global health practicum would take place from the confines of my apartment in Carrboro. When I got the news I had the opportunity to work with the Gillings Zambia Hub, I was ecstatic. It was immediately obvious how much this practicum had to offer me. Not only could I continue exploring an interest in nutrition-related research, but it would also provide an opportunity to practice my skills as an analyst and learn from a small group of public health experts.

This summer I am grateful to be working at the UNC Gillings Zambia Hub with Dr. Stephanie Martin and Dr. Ashu Handa. We are working on the Scaling up Nutrition Learning and Evaluation (SUN-LE) project which provides survey, research, evaluation and dissemination services to the Zambian government. More specifically, we will be investigating various health facility quality measures and nutrition interventions as they relate to reducing childhood stunting/malnutrition.

So far I have begun a literature review and learned about antenatal care and health facility quality assessments. Next, we will finalize a list of variables to evaluate and move forward with some analyses. As the practicum continues, I look forward to expanding my understanding of global maternal and child health and nutrition, and applying some of the materials I have learned in class in a work-setting. Most of my prior experiences have been in U.S. healthcare, and while I enjoyed that work and learned a lot, I am excited to become part of a project that I feel has a more direct and greater impact on people’s everyday lives. After all, this is one of the reasons I wanted to pursue my MPH.

Now that classes are done and I have more free-time, I’m also looking forward to exploring the Triangle area running/hiking, spending time with friends, and volunteering at the community garden. Some of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from the pandemic is the importance of creative thinking and making the most of every opportunity. This said, I’m looking forward diving into this practicum and hope to create a valuable experience!