Field Notes #4

By Farhana Jamal

I arrived at Khushi Baby headquarters in Udaipur at a very formative time in its growth. More than simply an exciting public health startup, being a part of Team KB has been a holistic learning experience that has taught me life skills just as much as it has any technical or hard skills.

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A few members of Team Khushi Baby on the roof of KB headquarters in Udaipur. From left to right: Deepa, Preethi, Farhana, Sara and Ruchit.

Among the many lessons learned while working at Khushi Baby are those learned firsthand while conducting fieldwork in rural areas of the Udaipur District of Rajasthan. The fieldwork being conducted upon my arrival on the first of July was focused on testing the Baseline Survey that would subsequently be used for Baseline Analysis of the study population for our upcoming Randomized Control Trial. The two main categories of information to be gained from this analysis are 1) A baseline sample of those infants with full immunization coverage 2) Information regarding socioeconomic status, demographics, health status and maternal and newborn health awareness of the potential RCT enrollment sample for the study.

  1. Account for Time: In the field, things (usually) take longer than expected.

For Instance: We anticipated that the baseline survey should take about thirty minutes to go through when tested in the field. However this proved to take longer because the survey time is in actuality, only one of the numerous factors to consider when determining the time it will take to complete testing.

Additional factors to consider include the time it takes to…

  • Find an appropriate interviewee (either a pregnant mother, mother with child four months old, or mother with child 1-2 years)
  • Get the survey started
  • Restate and clarify questions along the way, the survey
  1. Even the most pre-planned logistics are subject to change.

For Instance: In continuation of Lesson #1, finding mothers to interview was a process in itself. Identifying and locating mothers required the help of a community health worker (Anganwadi worker) who lived in the village. She had extensive knowledge of who the pregnant women, as well as the women with young children in the village from her work at the Anganwadi Center (a center that provides basic healthcare services in Indian villages).

  1. If one is collecting data, there should be heavy monitoring of data collection to ensure data quality.

For Instance: Surveys were typically conducted in the homes of the interviewees or their extended family. These were usually group settings, with multiple family members and neighbors present and chiming with their own answers to survey questions. It was imperative that the surveyor keep such interference from other family members and onlookers at bay to ensure that the questions truly reflected the knowledge and awareness of the mother so that the data collected was not compromised.

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KB team members Pawan and Ruchit monitoring the distribution of necklaces in the field.
  1. Plan for rough terrain, often.

For Instance: Many villages are located in remote areas that can only be accessed by foot. This was the case for the village we had planned to go to for baseline testing. At the point that the car could no longer drive, our driver informed us (after consulting with a local man from the village) that it would take about two hours to reach our desired destination by foot. Since we did not have enough time that day to make the journey, we had to alter the plan at that moment and go to a different village for testing.

Ultimately, this plan change did not hinder our ability to test the survey, but it had the potential to do so because we had not informed any community health workers of our arrival. In turn, this could have prevented us from receiving the necessary logistical help in coordinating the interviews once we got to the village.

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  1. Communication, Communication, Communication!

For Instance: Communication methods in the field rely much less on digital connectivity than they do on word-of-mouth and real-time communication. Put simply, our field visit (just as many do) involved asking multiple people for directions and for help as needed along the way.
Due to different channels of communication of the rural context in which we work, last minute plan changes, are often determined on the spot, and decisions are made according to the real-time information one receives in person.

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