REACH (Research, Evaluation & Analysis for Community Health) is a research group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). They use a scientific approach to uncover the desires and understandings of community members in an attempt to solve larger problems that affect those communities (eg. community health, substance abuse, homelessness).
A new project was undertaken to investigate HIV and Hepatitis C risk among 600 injection drug users in rural Puerto Rico. The ultimate goal is to use this research to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C in Puerto Rico by identifying effective prevention strategies. Over five years, this community will be tracked and surveyed about ongoing risk behaviors, injection risk partners, and about their daily lives. Each participant would also complete rapid HIV and Hepatitis C tests.
Because this transient community is so geographically dispersed across such poor, rural areas, respondents cannot be reached using traditional sampling and surveying techniques. There aren’t “mailing lists” for people who use injection drugs and if there were, you can’t just mail surveys to someone who doesn’t have an address!
The Turning Point
It was clear that REACH would need to use teams of field interviewers to sample and survey participants. They had to find a way to complete interviews in the field which would send the data easily and securely back to UNL to be studied. Voxco personal interviewing software (CAPI) exceeded their expectations with how seamlessly it integrated into their field research methodology:
- Offline Capability: The CAPI software was installed onto field laptops, and interviewer questionnaires were programmed in both English and Spanish. In the field, interviewers can conduct interviews offline in rural areas using the in-person survey software when needed.
- Data Synchronization & Protection: The interviewers also recorded the results of the HIV and Hepatitis C tests into short Voxco survey projects. Laptops are synchronized daily with the university’s secure servers. Survey answers are cleared off the laptops, which protects the confidential respondent data in case of theft or breakage. This way, all of the data collected from respondents is securely stored on UNL servers and does not remain on the field laptops.
- Live Interviewer & Results Monitoring: Back at UNL, the project director can monitor multiple remote field teams. As laptops are synchronized in the field, completed interviews and the results of medical tests become visible. This allows for immediate data analysis, but also provides the ability to keep field teams on schedule.
The Voxco platform offered easy and secure digital data collection, regardless of the remoteness or risks in the field. With the help of the face to face interviewing software, their field team could complete over 300 interviews and HIV/HCV tests in less than 2 months and begin analyses immediately after the final interview. From the REACH offices in Lincoln, NE, data insights could be quickly extracted and correlations could be made between respondent behaviour and disease contraction. Actionable insights are already being formed and addressed.
One year into the ongoing study and the REACH team has found the efficiency and security of using Voxco software for face-to-face interviewing is unparalleled.
« Voxco survey software is one of our favorite tech tools for community-based participatory research. It is one of the absolute BEST tech tools we have found for data collection in the field. Voxco has made data collection easy and secure, no matter the project. »
Melissa Welch-Lazoritz, Project Director
Injection Risk Networks in Rural Puerto Rico Project, REACH