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Bangladesh, January 2009

Conducting a study on the relationship between medical representatives and informal health providers, 3 MPH students were provided the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Bangladesh with support from Alumni Giving funds.  According to available data, over 80% of the health care treatment in rural Bangladesh is provided by informal providers.  Howerver, very little information exists about the factors influencing their practices and their interaction with pharmaceutical representatives.  Countries such as Bangladesh, which produce large amounts of pharmaceuticals domestically, were particularly important for this project.  Chakaria was selected as a research site, a small village in rural south-western Bangladesh, and a partner research organization identified, International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B).

Smisha Agarwal, Susan Tuddenham, and Heather Peto began planning for the project several months in advance by writing a proposal for IRB approval, designing a research methodology, and writing surveys and guides for in-depth interviews and focus group discussions.  While in Bangladesh, Agarwal, Tuddenham and Peto conducted interviews during the day and took down notes at night.  They had to make sure their computers were charged and came up with innovative ways to continue working for the several hours each night when they had no electricity.  They conducted focus group discussions and surveys with village doctors and medical representatives in pharmacies, which were small open-air shacks stocked to varying degrees with medicines.  The Annual Giving funds enabled these students to execute this exciting project and rewarding experience.

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