Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Research and Results

In the center of downtown San Vito my partners and I began our interviews about the knowledge, attitudes and practices of men regarding prostate cancer screening. The OTS driver had just dropped us off and, as we walked across the street to the park, minor worries and hesitation began to set in. Would it be difficult to find many men over the age of 40 (a requirement for our study)? How would men react to our survey topic? Would many of them be impolite or inappropriate? We could feel each other’s uncertainty and, as a result, decided not to split up during our first day. With that decision and a collective random burst of confidence we introduced ourselves to our first survey participant. The interview went surprisingly well, took only seven minutes to complete and left us feeling confident. Most of the men we surveyed were polite and when we did interview people who were inappropriate we were able to ignore comments and keep the survey on track. After all, we had chosen the topic knowing prostate cancer screening is a sensitive subject with some cultural taboo surrounding it. 

At the end of our first morning we had collected 30 interviews, a number that surprised our professors who had expected data collection to be a challenge. We thus set our daily goal to 30 surveys a day and as each day went by we learned more and more from our interactions with the community. We wanted to leave our participant feeling educated and informed and so we began handing out information pamphlets about prostate cancer after each interview. (The Costa Rica Ministry of Health created the pamphlets). The new Spanish vocabulary we used became second nature, the slightly offensive comments from certain participants became easier to casually dismiss, and our understanding of popular misconceptions and issues improved considerably. We even overheard men talking after we interviewed them about the importance of getting tested!

Every afternoon we entered data and reflected on the morning interviews. We began our analysis, discussed the misconceptions we had recorded during interviews, and prepared for our final research papers. After our analysis and papers were complete we had the pleasure of presenting our findings at a poster session open to the community and received feedback from some local community health workers. As we told them, what we found most interesting and important were the misconceptions surrounding our topic of study. Within the next few days we will be creating educational posters to counteract these misconceptions and inform the San Vito community. We went into this topic of study hoping to assist the local health system and give back to the community. With our limited time and resources we feel we’ve done just that.

Erica Rayack

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