Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Team Uganda: Out in the field

The Uganda team had a very busy and successful week last week. On Tuesday, seven members of the Volunteer Health Team joined us at the Volset White House for a training on conducting the data collection survey. The day began with breakfast, followed by a review of TAMTAM’s goals, this specific study and the importance of malaria research. After Hummy led everyone through the survey and data entry methodology, the VHTs role-played to practice conducting the survey. We were particularly excited about one VHT who enthusiastically and humorously acted out challenging situations the VHTs might run into, including getting romantic advances during the interview and interviewees using the bed nets for alternate purposes. After 8 hours of training the VHTs stayed late to review with each other and practice additional scenarios.

The TAMTAM team and VHT's during training outside of the White House

Sheryl reviewing training materials with VHTs

With training done, we could now get out in the field to see the impact of the TAMTAM nets first hand. We spent the rest of the week shadowing VHTs on home visits which were very insightful. We observed that most people are correctly using their TAMTAM nets but that some individuals struggled to hang theirs or repair them after tearing. While it is very early in the data collection, it may indicate that education or VHT assistance in installing and maintaining the net can have a significant impact on utilization.

Hummy checking up on a TAMTAM net in a local household

We were also excited to learn that, thanks to the efforts of the VHTs and government educational programs, the majority of net recipients correctly identify how an individual contracts malaria. Understanding how malaria is contracted, and therefore why bed nets are important, should also help increase correct utilization of the nets.

We are now back in Ntenjeru where we will spend the week continuing to shadow the VHTs on home visits as well as working with the health clinic’s records to get a better understanding of how the number of diagnosed malaria cases have changed over the course of the year. We are hoping that with additional layers of data we will be able to look at the impact of net distributions on diagnosed malaria cases.
The team on our walk to the office in the morning. Great views!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hello from Ghana

Greetings from Accra, Ghana! TAMTAM has teams in Ghana and Uganda right now, and we will be updating this blog with information and stories about our work on TAMTAM’s 2010 summer projects.

Ghana makes the fifth country in which TAMTAM has conducted research or net distributions. For those who are new to the blog or to the organization, please check out our work at our website, and of course, we’re looking forward to telling you about our work throughout the summer.

We currently have a team of six people based in Accra. We are fortunate to have two members of the team, Esther Hsu and Paul Wang, who are officers of TAMTAM and who worked on the Uganda project last year. We also have four new team members: Julia Goldberg, Teague Hopkins, Matthew Raifman, and me, Leah Stern.

Last week, we had a set of very productive meetings, including one at the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) where we got a chance to listen to the planning discussions for the next major net distribution campaign in the Eastern Region in Ghana. The discussion included representatives from the President’s Malaria Initiative, ProMPT (Promoting Malaria Prevention and Treatment), and Nets for Life.

The TAMTAM team also met separately with ProMPT, an organization funded by USAID which works in partnership with NMCP, and they shared with us their insights from their work, which seeks to strengthen the NMCP’s work and engage stakeholders in malaria interventions.

We have a very nice office in Osu in downtown Accra in the offices of Deliver, a project of John Snow, Inc (JSI). The folks at Deliver have been wonderfully welcoming and have shared their extensive knowledge with us.

This week, we are looking forward to more meetings to discuss what evaluations would be most useful to policymakers. We’re also working to set up visits to potential local partners.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lusanyuse okulaba mu Uganda! (Welcome to Uganda)

The Uganda TAMTAM has arrived on site in Ntenjeru and hit the ground running! This year’s team consists of Sheryl, who is working on her Master of Science in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, Hummy, who is working on her Master in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Laura who just completed her Master’s of Business Administration.

This summer, the team is focused on collecting follow-up data on the 400+ home bed nets that were distributed to last year. The nets were given out through different techniques and the team will evaluate the follow up data to see if techniques resulted in increased utilization. This information will be reported to the government, US health organizations, and other NGOs to improve the methods through which nets are distributed in the future.

We arrived in Uganda on Saturday and after a bumpy ride down to the Volset Foundation's White House we were treated to a delicious dinner by the wonderful women working at the House. On Sunday, we spent the day learning how to do basic tasks, like washing dishes and bathing, without the luxuries of home life and also had the chance to have some fun with the kids that live nearby.

Monday we got right to work going to the Volset Office to meet with two of the Volunteer Health Team members (VHTs) to develop the follow-up survey, schedule dates for training all of the VHTs, and work on training materials. We’ll spend the rest of this week working closely with the VHTs as well as people involved in the initial follow up study last September, to develop the follow-up survey and the training which we will be giving to the VHTs next Tuesday.

We have been warmly welcomed by the community, kids, and VHTs. We’ve been inspired by many of the leaders of the community that we’ve had the pleasure to meet and all the fantastic work they’re doing to improve education, healthcare, community services, and support for the HIV+ community. We’re really excited to be starting off a great summer of working for TAMTAM in Ntenjeru!