More Than Numbers: The Human Stories Behind Global Health Data

April 21, 2015 2:01 AM

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Numbers surround us every day, from the code used to communicate between mobile phones to the number of plates needed for lunch. It is easy to forget exactly how important these numbers really can be, especially when removed from the actual people or functions they represent. This year, I have been working as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Uganda Village Project, a NGO based out of the rural district of Iganga, Uganda. Throughout my year, I have seen numbers: HIV testing numbers, malaria bed net distribution numbers, family planning outreach numbers, obstetric fistula repair surgery numbers, among thousands more. In the daily deluge of information, I must constantly remind myself that these numbers, though aggregated for analysis, represent actual people and lifesaving situations. The 15 participants who received the Depo shot at the last outreach in Namunkesu represent 15 women who are planning their families for a brighter future for themselves and their own. The 150 participants who received HIV test results mean that there are 150 villagers in Bukaigo that can receive ART treatment if necessary, and sleep easier that night knowing their status. The people of these villages are the true representation of the numbers, but unfortunately the human story is too often divorced from them after collection in order to do mega-analyses and aggregation.

This past month I had the incredible opportunity to help lead an impact evaluation research project of the villages where UVP does their work. Currently they have worked in 24 villages out of a list of 70. Julius (my co-fellow) and I were tasked to collect data from 15 households in each village to ...

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