The Human Side of Healthcare Research
Research in the fields of medicine and public health typically relies heavily on the use of numbers when collecting and using data. Rachel Tayler '11 took another approach this summer, researching and collecting a more personal type of data for Professor Arachu Castro at the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative for the Integration of Prenatal Care (ILAP) in Boston.
"I am interested in this work because it takes a social approach to health inequalities," says Tayler. "Castro uses oral histories as a primary form of data collection, which introduces a very human aspect [to the project]."
ILAP aims to contribute to the early diagnosis and treatment of HIV and syphilis in women in order to lower the numbers of mother-to-child transmissions of STIs, while providing the framework for national and international large scale policy changes aimed towards strengthening health systems.
"Arachu is on the Partners in Health Staff," says Tayler, who was among this summer's Center for Peace and Globa Citzenship interns. "And what started out as a really small research project for the PIH staff turned into my summer research topic. I was assigned researching cervical cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean."
Tayler worked on coding interviews that ILAP workers in Colombia conducted with health workers in clinics and hospitals, as well as people who work in the ministry of health. The goal of this project is to create a document specific to Colombia with recommendations on how to improve the health systemy in regards to maternal and infant care.
"One really interesting aspect of the situation in Latin America is the price of the HPV vaccine and the inability of most countries to afford it," she says. "There is also the fear that social stigma will not make this vaccine 'acceptable' to people in these countries. The HPV vaccine protects against an STI, but there is the belief that women who are protected against STIs are more likely to become sexually promiscuous."
Tayler plans to utlize her summer research in her senior thesis, which she hopes to focus on health inequalities and human rights.