GSIF Post #3 Rohan Ekambaram

There are many stakeholders for our project of making UTI test strips for people in Sierra Leone. The most important stakeholder is the women of Sierra Leone and whoever else this strip helps. By increasing awareness and screening for UTI’s people are able to live happier and safer lives. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates and these test strips aim to help lower that. If we can succeed in our efforts, then the women of Sierra Leone will live much healthier lives. Another stakeholder in our project are the Community Health Workers in Sierra Leone. These people work extremely hard to provide the best care they can with limited resources and training. Most Community Health Workers have not had education past a middle school level, and it is tough to provide good care without proper education. Our goal for them is to make an easy to use and easy to read diagnostic test strip so that they can provide better care for the people of their village. If we can make their job any easier, then we will have made a difference. Another stakeholder in our project is World Hope International. They are a national charity that does amazing work and they have people on the ground in Sierra Leone who work tirelessly in order to help the people around them. They have given their time, resources and money in order to further our cause. They give us a place to work while in Sierra Leone, help us visit different communities during our research, and provide us with a translator so we can further our work with the community. Their motivation to have stake in our venture is the same as ours, to help people lead better lives. Another stakeholder for our venture is Lehigh University. They have created a number of programs that do amazing work to improve the lives of others just like ours. They have invested money and resources by funding a lot of altruistic projects like our own in order to see results around the globe and bring recognition to the university. The final stakeholder in our project is the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Health is the overarching governmental body that regulates the medical practices in Sierra Leone. It has tried in different ways to lower the maternal and infant mortality rate but it has proven to be a difficult task. Sierra Leone is not one of the wealthier countries in the world, and therefore does not have a lot of medical resources to allocate to more rural areas. With our test strips, more people who live farther away from the city can still have a chance of getting a semblance of a medical opinion from their Community Health Workers and other people employed in the medical field in rural areas.

Over the semester I plan to validate my project and increase my credibility. One way I can do this is by developing a leukocyte test that can withstand variations in humidity, temperature and sunlight. A current problem we have with the test strip is that it is sensitive to all three of these factors. In fact, if it is exposed too long to any of these conditions, the test begins to show false negatives. This is a troublesome problem since Sierra Leone has a rise in all of these factors compared to America. It also leads to problems because electricity is not an easy commodity to find as you go farther into the rural areas of Sierra Leone. This makes it tough to regulate the conditions the strips are being kept in and makes it harder to transport them. If we could develop a sturdier strip, then we would be able to distribute the strips much more easily. Another way of validation is to help educate the people of Sierra Leone about the problems with UTI’s. There is a large stigma about having UTI’s, but they are a common thing for everyone. One of the goals of our group is to create a radio program that will teach people about the dangers of UTI’s. If we could educate people about UTI’s and help diminish the stigma even slightly, then our project will have been validated. A way to increase my credibility would be to participate in writing one of the papers our group is trying to produce. There are many smart individuals on my team and if they help, I could educate myself enough in order to actually give ideas and thoughts towards a paper.

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