Amy Westermann
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Student: Amy Westermann
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Responsibilities:
My main work this summer was on the evaluation of the Maternal Health Voucher Program in Kenya as it relates to antenatal care (ANC) services. I first conducted a review of the literature to understand the background of maternal health services in Kenya, which helped me write the introduction to the manuscript. I then cleaned, merged, and analysed baseline and endline datasets in STATA to see if there was an improvement in the quality of ANC services provided. I did my fieldwork on a different project, Healthcare for All Kenyans through Innovation (HAKI), which is a study determining if the introduction of a subsidized healthcare card for lower-income families improved access to quality health services. I helped conduct in-depth interviews with health officials and health care providers on their experiences with implementing HAKI. I also conducted household surveys of families with and without the HAKI card to gain feedback on knowledge and use of the card.

Greatest Public Health Lesson:
I learned so much during my internship, but the greatest public health lesson I learned was the importance and value of evidence-based research. While this concept is something that was taught in many of the core public health classes, I didn’t appreciate the true significance of it until I saw it in practice. Many programs in Kenya, and throughout the world, are implemented and run with minimal or no monitoring and evaluation of their impact; making it virtually impossible to know if the intervention is working on the target population, and, moreover, if the program could be replicated elsewhere or scaled up.

Favorite Memory:
My favorite memory is from conducting household surveys with data collectors for the HAKI program in Kwale County, an area near the coast of Kenya. Just getting to the villages to conduct the interviews was a major feat – it took us 4 hours!! We started our long journey on a big commuter bus that was so crammed with people there were people riding on top of it. We disembarked after 3 uncomfortable hours, where we were supposed to take a second bus, but it never showed up. So we had no choice but to pile on to boda-bodas (motorcycles), to travel the remaining hour to our destination. Once in the village, tracking down the household of the family we were interviewing was no easy task, but eventually we were able to find the people we were supposed to interview and successfully completed the surveys. What struck me the most was not the abject poverty or the huge disparity that exists between those living in Nairobi versus the rural area, but the incredible kindness of the people I encountered. In one of the households we interviewed, the family insisted I sit in the only seat they had while the mother and 80-year old grandmother stood during the interview. My time in Kenya taught me not only flexibility, but also to appreciate all of the hard work that goes into data collection and most importantly that it doesn’t cost anything to be kind.

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