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May. 10, 2013 11:00 am

Philadelphia U grad student develops data collection tech for Midwives for Haiti

Midwives for Haiti aims to lower Haiti's maternal mortality rate: Haitian women have a 1 in 44 chance of dying in childbirth, the worst rate in the Western hemisphere. But the organization didn't have a way to collect data on its work.

A skilled birth attendant in the Midwives for Haiti clinic that will pilot Tracy McCarthy's data collection system. Photo by Cheryl Hanna-Truscott.

Without data, a nonprofit can’t tell its full story. It can’t show the extent of its reach. And for an organization that relies on donors to keep it funded, data could mean the difference between staying open or closing up shop.

That’s what Philadelphia University grad student Tracy McCarthy realized when she began working with Midwives for Haiti, a nonprofit that trains Haitian men and women as skilled birth attendants.

Midwives for Haiti aims to lower Haiti’s maternal mortality rate: Haitian women have a 1 in 44 chance of dying in childbirth, the worst rate in the Western hemisphere. But the organization didn’t have a way to collect data on its work.

McCarthy, 27, who began working with Midwives for Haiti through the Philadelphia Midwifery Department at Philadelphia University, developed a low-cost data collection system for the organization. In her words:

After assisting a patient, the participating skilled birth attendant will record pertinent data by filling out a multiple-choice survey.  An image of the completed survey will be captured by a digital camera and securely and privately stored onto a memory card.  When the jeep returns to headquarters, a software program will interpret the image capture and report the brightness values of to a .csv table, to then be imported into an excel database where it is managed and sorted.

Midwives for Haiti will pilot the program this summer at its mobile clinic, which travels to remote parts of Haiti to assist in childbirth. It doesn’t require an Internet connection, any additional training to use and can be easily replaced if lost or broken, McCarthy said.

After graduation this spring, McCarthy, who hopes to travel to Haiti this summer to see the tool in action, will move to Houston, Tex. to be with her fiance.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Technically Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.

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