GSIF Blog Post #6

The Ukweli team will require IRB approvals for our research with a Urinary Tract Infection test strip in Sierra Leone. In order to accurately test whether our strips work effectively or not, we will need to engage Community Health Workers to collect data on both how many women come to get tested, what the reading was and the accuracy of that reading. Therefore, our venture will clearly involve human subjects, but because it will involve only minimal risk, it is my understanding that Ukweli will qualify for expedited IRB review. The information collected will not be identifiable, but will involve intervention of some sort.


There will be a few challenges to address as we consider our research design for IRB approval. The first is, as with any research experiment, getting the subjects to partake in the research or, in this case, getting women to the health clinic to get tested. But in our team’s case, a woman deciding to get tested can only be beneficial to her, because getting tested with an Ukweli strip could lead her to acquire the necessary medication upon a positive reading. The second major challenge in our research design is empowering the Community Health Workers to meticulously collect data on the women who get tested, so that the Ukweli team can be assured that the hard numbers collected are accurate and reflect the true conditions on the ground in Sierra Leone. This is key to any adjustments that are necessary to be made on our end in order to ultimately create a better product that is more reliable and that will actually reduce the maternal mortality rate. The Ukweli team will need to create a survey or some other means of data collection that is easily accessible in the Community Health Clinics that both patients and medical staff can complete in order to assess both the quantity of tests being performed and their quality (effectiveness).


I really happen to like the logic model diagram and way of thinking about this project, so I’m happy it is something we discussed in lecture. It has helped me to organize my thinking. Probably the biggest input is just the sheer time and resources available to us as Lehigh students to really invest into solving such a large scale sustainable development challenge like maternal mortality in a country an ocean away. Being in higher education in America and at Lehigh in particular affords students like us both time to think through this complicated matter, since we are not in the workforce and likely are not depended on for income within our families, and the funds to explore, perform research, travel and create and sell a product and market that product.  Another important input is our team’s partnerships with World Hope International and with Wancheng, our OEM company based in China. These partnerships will help us make the last critical jump: from having a product that could reduce mortality to getting this product into the women who need it to actually reduce mortality.


Our desired outputs include hiring staff full time in Sierra Leone to run our venture’s concept of operations  from the time the strips arrive at a port in Freetown to the woman getting screened at a nearby medical facility. An important longer term desired output will be “spreading” the dissemination of the test strips out within Sierra Leone, since we are currently focusing on very specific provinces or districts within the country. But a truly successful operation in Sierra Leone would be country-wide in order to provide equal access to UTI screening and subsequent treatment regardless of location. And a public information campaign would be a third important output of our venture. Education and awareness is often the biggest barrier to developing successful change, and change is exactly what our venture is about in the health field.


Outcome is the clearest part of this venture to me. The goal is to reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone by screening for UTIs at a very local level, so that once a woman recognizes her symptoms she is able to retain a higher quality of life. Hopefully along the way opinion and attitudes toward seeking medical help will change with the success of this venture, and increased knowledge and awareness will be a by-product of our efforts.


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