I’m headed to the field! It took a very long time to gather all the permissions I needed for the project (due to transportation issues, weather, the TransChaco Rally, people going on vacation, a relaxed pace of life… I could go on), but now everything is in place and I can start doing research.
The first order of business when I get out there is to find a field assistant for each community and train them. I met some potential field assistants and got some names during my first trip. I’ve got a training manual that I wrote up for each assistant that gives an overview of the project, discusses research ethics, and explains what they need to know for the methodologies they will be helping me with. If it works out well in the field I might share it on here at a later date. The manual is pretty basic because the assistants and I will always be working together while collecting data, and at this early stage their role is mostly translating between Spanish and Nivaclé.
The next step is to hold community meetings in each community, where the local health promoters, my assistant, and I will present the study to community members. This is a good chance to get feedback from community members and answer their questions about the study. As part of the presentation we’ll be talking about tuberculosis and helminthiasis: what they are, what causes them, how they can be treated, etc.
And then we start Phase I of the study, which involves a health census covering every household in the study communities, followed by semi-structured interviews with key informants and randomly selected participants. The census is designed to gather data on demographics, public health infrastructure, and tuberculosis risk factors. From the interviews I hope to learn more about local beliefs about tuberculosis, health care access, nutrition, social networks and social supports (how the sick are cared for), and the history of the community (which is important to know, since the initial exposure to TB can occur decades before active disease develops). Interviews with former TB patients will be used to develop a TB symptom survey based on the local experience of the disease.
I have about 4 weeks to complete all of the above. It’s doable, but will be really intense. I’m planning to stay in the field the entire time (unless I really have to come back out to the wired world for supplies), so this will be the last of my posts for a while.
I’m off until December 21st!