Blog 4

  1. *Based on your life experience, skills and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like? 

A design process that is both unique and effective would incorporate the humanistic and empathic elements to providing our product. I am a firm believer that empathy, the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, is an incredibly powerful motivator. I think our program is excellent when it comes to being creative in order to solve real-world issues and make a systematic impact, but I think it’s implicitly part of the course when we do case studies regarding issues like cultural understanding. It is often easy to get wrapped up in the work portion of any project, but remembering why we are pursuing what we are at the moment is just as important. Something that stuck with me is when Khanjan said, “if your project fails, it will have devastating consequences for the people you are trying to help.” That is a responsibility I take very seriously and I remind myself of this statement when I feel that I need to push myself further for the good of the project (to a healthy extent).

2. Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them. 

Mothers→ low income, located in rural areas of Sierra Leone, price sensitivity goes up during the wet season, Religions: Islam and Christianity, low education level 

World Hope International→ Organization, Core Values: Transformation, Sustainability, Empowerment, and Collaboration, Christian, Motive: “To empower the poorest of the poor around the world so they can become agents of change within their communities.” (https://www.worldhope.org/about-us/), some staff members located in the U.S. and Makeni, Sierra Leone

The ordinary citizen of Sierra Leone: this is a key stakeholder because of the importance of mothers in the Sierra Leone household. Attributes include: dependence on the mother’s contribution to the household, personal interest/stake in the life of each mother, ability to encourage/support the mother throughout their pregnancy, influence on the mother’s mental well-being, and the motivation they may provide the mothers to seek better health when they think about how their health (the mother’s health) affects the whole family unit.

 

3. Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model.

Validate Business Model→ Does it solve a real burning problem? Yes, Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.  A lot of women go untested for UTI and preeclampsia which can lead to birth complications.  

Competitive advantages over other ventures? Strong community connections on the ground, incredibly important for distributing and gaining trust from CHWs.

How do they solve the problem now? Currently, people in rural areas of Sierra Leone visit Community Health Posts (CHPs) to receive basic medical care. However, they are normally not screened by any diagnostic test due to a lack of resources.  

Validate Usability→ How does it compare to the user experience of alternative

approaches? 9 parameter UTI test strip→ much more expensive, more complicated with 9 vs the 3 our strip has (color scheme harder to analyze). 

How easy/difficult is it for each stakeholder to interact with the product? CHWs are shown how to use it and read the results during training. 

Will people use your product? We currently have UHWs purchasing and using the test strips.

4. Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

Something interesting that I learned from a friend was the concept of cultural understanding through food. Just about anyone likes food, and I think that a lot of cultural misunderstandings might have a path towards understanding by a simple and good faith act of sharing meals between people of different cultures. I know that my longtime girlfriend and I connected with each other through a different lens when she introduced me to authentic Vietnamese food, and it has opened up my eyes towards appreciating all aspects of cultures different from my own.

Another interesting and alien concept is polyamory. I know of a person in my life that practices this, and although I do not agree with it myself, I found it incredibly interesting when I asked why they felt that they didn’t want to be attached to just one person. Without trying to judge them for it, I attempted to understand their viewpoint, which can often be difficult when it comes to something that is inherently conflictual with your own worldviews.

Finally, understanding people from disadvantaged backgrounds was once an alien concept to me. For example, I never saw myself as disadvantaged due to financial circumstances or my prior educational background, but it wasn’t until I started interacting more with the world around me that I started to ask myself, “I wonder how many other people deal with the same thing.” This is actually one of the primary motivators in my life when it comes to helping those in need: we are all born with different combinations of advantages and disadvantages, and it is something we all need to be aware of. Some people, for example, get upset when something that has been turned into a politically-charged topic such as “diversity and inclusion”, but the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” intentionally encompass a very wide umbrella of things, such as ethnicity, age, gender, major, socioeconomic status, etc.

Blog 3: Theory of Change Model

By: Noah Weaver, Anneke Roy, Skyler Martinez, and Spencer Moros

List the top 20 questions your team needs to answer to advance the venture forward. Categorize the questions if necessary.

  1. Who are the people we are seeking to impact?
  2. How is the impact distributed across different groups?
  3. How does Ukweli’s success in Sierra Leone impact the international system?
  4. Why do we care about making an impact?
  5. How is this realistically translated into their lives?
  6. How can our model be applied to similar countries?
  7. How is our impact measured?
  8. How does this venture empower women?
  9. What type of connections do we need to branch out of the Bombali District?
  10. What is the future of this venture?
  11. What are the challenges that we are encountering on the ground right now?
  12. How do we leverage our existing social network to expand operations?
  13. What are other ways we can strengthen the CHW network within our control?
  14. How can we organize data in a way that is easy to understand and accessible?
  15. What is some data we already have?
  16. What is some data we still need to collect?
  17. What are some realistic ways we can quantify the success of our project? (e.g. comparing maternal mortality rates in Ukweli vs. non-Ukweli tested mothers and the challenges associated with timely data collection)
  18. How could additional funding assist in our efforts?
  19. How can we construct a reliable and sustainable chain of communication with UHW?
  20. Are there more effective methods to increase accountability/oversight?

 

Develop and Visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture. 

 

Inputs Outputs Outcomes
Money/operations funding

Partnerships w/ health workers + World Hope

# of women tested positive

# of women tested in general 

# of UHWs trained

# of boxes bought by UHWs

The maternal mortality rate of women tested vs not tested 

Lower maternal mortality rate alongside tangible data

Establish a network outside of our current base of operations

Start mobilizing Ukweli beyond Bombali district

Blog 2

 

01/31/2020: Noah S. Weaver

Cultural Issues

A basic example of how cultural issues will affect the Ukweli project is the issue of privacy. Although it is commonly accepted to have a healthcare provider or employee be in the presence of someone during typically intrusive (as in lack of privacy) procedures, protecting a woman’s privacy is crucial. This poses as a basic (yet important) barrier to women seeking out the test strips due to this fear: however, the women are free to do these tests in the comfort of their own home, and sending this message will be critical to our group’s success.

Another cultural issue includes the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is responsible for a whole slew of female health-related issues, included some instances of maternal death. This is performed during a type of ceremony when women are transitioning from childhood into adulthood, but it is incredibly dangerous nonetheless. Thus, this contributes to a greater number of maternal deaths. This practice might cause women to be afraid to seek medical attention by those who are qualified when they are in great need, perhaps for the fear of embarrassment regarding their condition. This delay in care also contributes to UTIs and preeclampsia, the same things we are testing for with the test strips. If they are afraid to seek us out, then more mothers will continue to die.

 

The final example is the practice of “giving the child back to God” when a child is born disabled. Although this is incredibly sad, I can certainly understand why they do it. For instance, the people of Sierra Leone are already among the poorest in the world, and they literally cannot afford to have one weak link if they expect to survive. This doesn’t mean I agree with the practice, but I can at least understand to the extent possible what lens they view this issue through. With that said, the delay in care (often accompanied by a UTI and preeclampsia) can often cause those same birth defects. The people there still often believe that these defects are acts of God, when that is not the case. If the people still believe that there is no hope for their child to be saved from these circumstances, they will not view the test strips as necessary. Using our preexisting connections with some of the people from the country will also be crucial in maintaining the trust of the communities we are actively involved in. Without this type of community networking, the Ukweli project will also fail.

Social Issues at Home

I have not experienced the last two of these situations at home, but some examples would include the concern for privacy when a female undergoes a gynecological exam. Considering how many physicians have improperly used their position to inappropriately and unnecessarily touch a female during these exams, the concern of privacy is understandable, but protection is also required on the healthcare provider’s part (e.g. having someone of the opposite sex in the room at all times). I realize this is not the best correlation as many women in the US aren’t as afraid to be examined (as it is medically necessary), but this is the closest parallel I can think of in relation to the first example from earlier.

 

Another social barrier to health care in general within the US is the lack of affordability. Many people are simply unable to afford health insurance, which is a type of commonality they have with the people of Sierra Leone. However, the difference is that hospitals in the US are required to treat every patient with an emergent need, regardless of their ability to pay. This is a political, financial, and social barrier in the sense that this type of problem could be solved in the US (although not perfectly) under a Medicare for all model. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the model: no model is perfect. What I am simply pointing out is that all people would be covered, and the barrier of affordability would be greatly reduced since it would be a collective pool of those insured.

 

The last situation to a social barrier in relation to healthcare is the lack of education. This is absolutely similar to that of Sierra Leone (although it is much worse in Sierra Leone), but most people do not understand why and how their healthcare process works. For example, if a physician orders a lipid or metabolic panel, the patient will (usually) not be able to interpret what their results mean. Of course, it would be pretty difficult for the average person to understand things that require a decade’s (or more) of education and training, but this is similar to the lack of education that the people of Sierra Leone experience in such a way that they might not have been taught the process of why and how certain conditions like UTIs can and will complicate a woman’s pregnancy to a degree.

Leveraging Cultural Practices

A cultural practice that could be leveraged is through early pregnancy screening. It is often common for women to wait until they are “showing” at around the three month mark before they seek medical attention. Perhaps an advertising campaign method of letting women know that it is okay to get screened as soon as you suspect that you are pregnant would be effective if we tout the improved outcomes with early preventative care and the convenience of our test strips along the way.

 

Another leverageable practice would include a traveling vehicle for our test strips. The practice of walking to a local clinic would be eliminated if we could provide transportation to CHWs and bring our test strips to the consumer. Of course, the authorization to do so would require that a physician or pharmacist be present in order to legally prescribe the strips (or other essential medications: they need to stay profitable). Perhaps a traveling pharmacy is a good solution to making the healthcare with screening as accessible as possible. Obviously, this would be an entire project within the Ukweli test strip project.

 

A final practice that might benefit the sale of our test strips is marketing them to traditional birth attendant (TBAs). Of course, we cannot sell our strips to them directly, but gaining the trust of TBAs could prove crucial to making our strips as well marketed and accessible to all women to the extent that is possible. The TBAs are seen as essential in most districts of Sierra Leone, and although they cannot help someone give birth alone, incorporating them alongside qualified health providers within healthcare facilities would be a great way to discourage the illegal practice of giving birth in one’s home.

 

Related article: https://www.healthynewbornnetwork.org/hnn-content/uploads/hpp2.pdf

01/24/2020: Noah Weaver- Ukweli

01/24/2020: Noah S. Weaver

1) I enrolled in this course because of my personal experience with helping those of limited means. I come from a low-middle income background, and I have always had to work incredibly hard in order to achieve barriers, ranging from financial to personal barriers. I enrolled in this course in order to do exactly what was mentioned during class: impact. It is incredibly easy for people to enroll in a typical study abroad course or do the one-week mission trip, but this program is uniquely equipped to allow for a sustained experience that addresses the intersection of socioeconomic, health, and political issues, etc. As a community college transfer student, I have seen people from incredibly diverse backgrounds, and something that I feel needs to be at the forefront of any purpose-driven life is the practice of servant leadership.

 

2) This course will make me a better molecular biology student because of the unique opportunity this fellowship offers me to apply the skills I have learned in the classroom up to this point and cultivate them into a tangible, meaningful experience and effort. The purpose of my degree of study is to allow me to learn more about my interests in biology, as well as pursue a realistic path to medical school. Although my goal is to impact people and their communities, I now realize that this fellowship is much bigger than that (in terms of changing systems). The learning will occur as long as I focus on the project at hand and put my best effort into it, and I “just might learn something”. Finally, I am a firm believer that there is much more to life than simply regurgitating ideas learned within a classroom. In essence, anything that is learned within a classroom and unable to be realistically applied to the rest of the world is meaningless. It has always amazed me how many people I have met in my life that possess an encyclopedic knowledge of academic material, but when it comes to applying those concepts, such as through a laboratory experiment, they often are unable to perform. Again, knowledge is not meaningful if it cannot be applied to real-life situations.

 

3) A realistic solution, in this case, would entail training as many community health workers as possible to conduct very basic assessments of the people’s vision. For example, if their required needs are as simple as needing a prescription for near-sightedness or far-sightedness, it would be relatively easy for the community health workers to perform this task. Of course, this would take approval from the relevant governmental organizations and it would undoubtedly take significant collaboration with non-governmental organizations.

 

However, in cases requiring more advanced training, such as a patient who is at risk for something such as retinal detachment or suffers from a stigmatism or requires cataract surgery, it would be beneficial to refer them to an optometrist at that point. Obviously, the resources would be quite limited given that there is approximately 1 optometrist per one million people, but this would potentially reduce the initial workload by a fairly large amount (assuming their vision needs are similar to what other comparable countries experience). In order to address the shortage of optometrists, it might be best to attempt a collaborative project with philanthropists and developed countries and develop an incentive program. For example, the US government has a program that allows for debt forgiveness for physicians providing care in underserved communities. Although this has involved several policy disagreements, if we could determine a way to navigate the politics of this issue, the hurdle to achieving sustainable and independent development in Kenya would potentially be within reach.