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Behind the scenes of RISE’s baseline survey

1 July 2019

The health and wellbeing survey is the biggest and broadest survey RISE is conducting across Makassar and Suva. PostDoctoral Researcher Dr Fiona Barker, the day-to-day data management lead of the survey, shares some surprising insights about getting the survey off the ground.

This is a health and wellbeing survey, but different academic disciplines had a hand in its creation.

While the survey specifically captures human health and wellbeing data, the survey required input and collaboration across the whole RISE program. ‘The baseline survey is a massive collaboration across many academic disciplines working on the program,’ Barker explains. ‘It took microbiologists, ecologists and epidemiologists through to architects, designers, economists and social researchers to create it together. This survey is a real testament to the interdisciplinary work that happens on the program’.

Questions cover topics from health… to rubbish.

‘It’s true,’ Dr Barker smiles. ‘There are actually two elements to the survey. The ‘household’ survey covers a wide range of demographic variables – like a census – as well as measures related to child and adult health, healthcare utilisation, wellbeing, time use and environmental exposures.

‘The ‘house’ survey also asks questions about the physical conditions in and around the house. This covers things like water quality and access, sanitation, solid waste (like rubbish/garbage), cooking, environmental information (flooding, animals, mosquitos), and building-related information.

‘All of this is important for us know, because a crucial hypothesis of RISE is that upgrading the physical environment can lead to better human health’.

Suva study participants are answering questions in English, Fijian or Fijian Hindi

Languages spoken in Suva range from English to Fijian (iTaukei) and Fijian Hindi. As such, after questions were developed by researchers, they were reviewed by the RISE Fiji team to advise on cultural sensitivities and country-specific nuance.

‘The surveys were translated from English into iTaukei and Fijian Hindi. As part of best practice, key questions were also identified for back-translation (from iTaukei or Hindi, back to English) to assess the quality, precision and accuracy of the translations,’ she explains.

‘It’s been very interesting to see how much nuance there is in language! It’s very clear that it’s important to allow enough time for in-country teams to discuss the survey questions to ensure good translations and to reach a clear, common understanding across the team’.

Internet cut outs won’t affect teams collecting data on their tablets

‘When we were choosing a mobile data collection app, the ability to operate offline or disconnected was one of our key priorities,’ Barker points out.

‘Each pair of fieldworkers is delivering the surveys and collecting data electronically using tablets. The platform we are using – surveyCTO – is a mobile collection platform that can be used offline,’ Barker says. ‘This is really important so that we can make the best use of residents’ time answering questions, without our teams worrying about patchy connectivity issues’.

This is just one survey RISE is conducting

‘While this is the biggest and broadest survey, there are a number of smaller surveys that are more narrow in focus – those have input primarily from individual teams’, Barker says.

‘Our vision is to improve not just human health – but environmental and ecological health – in informal settlements. So we’ve been working with communities and residents to let them know that we’ll be collecting environmental samples and data (from soil to water and mosquitos, temperature and even sound), and some of this data will be collected through surveys’.