I’m Akhila Yechuri, a public health professional interested in people-centered work, qualitative research, and the intersection of public health and digital technology. Here are some projects I’ve led and contributed to.

Project 1:

Health Disparities among Women in Hyderabad, India 

Principal Investigator:  March 2019 – March 2020 

I began conceptualizing this project at the end of 2018. I wanted to find out what gaps India, a famously multicultural and massive country, had in their healthcare delivery system. In existing research on the Indian healthcare system, women hadn’t been explicitly focused on. How did women of different religious groups receive care, within the intricate labyrinth of service providers?

PROCESS AND CHALLENGES: As the principal investigator, I developed all of the survey materials. I utilized past literature and insight from my local stakeholders, including two hospitals and an independent gynecology practice, to create the research instruments, a health survey and demographics questionnaire. I also led a research team that administered this survey and questionnaire to Hindu and Muslim women. I chose to create research questions focused on nutrition, respiratory health, and reproductive health.

During the literature review stage, I identified these three sectors of health as being most impacted by unsafe environmental factors and disparities in healthcare access. Additionally, literacy was an unexpected challenge among participants. I had to work on readapting all of the research materials so they could be understood with verbal cues and pictures. My interview process subsequently included an oral consent form and far more prompts and photographs in addition to the questions.

IMPACT AND LEARNINGS: Although we spoke the same language, the local dialect was hard for the research team to understand. However, since we used verbal cues to indicate confusion, we were able to communicate beyond what the survey materials were asking. For example, the women told me about the constant flow of non-profits through their neighborhood, and the inadequate ways they helped.

We used this information to fill gaps in health needs the women expressed, specifically by conducting health fairs with gynecologists to address reproductive health needs. We also learned our project was too focused on Western medicine to feel applicable to the participants. After this realization, we asked more questions about traditional treatments and referred the participants to doctors of traditional medicine, specifically, Ayurveda and Yunani. The long-term impact of our project was connecting these women to healthcare professionals they wouldn’t have easy access to otherwise. Despite barriers to their healthcare needs, the women relied heavily on digital technology to access care. We came away from this project with a clearer understanding of how communities have adopted mobile applications as a healthcare resource.

This project remained unfinished due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project 2:

An Assessment of Qualitative Health Marginalia

Lead Researcher and Co-Principal Investigator: December 2016 – August 2017

PROCESS: I went through over 200 surveys and coded and categorized the marginalia to understand their context and meaning. The goal was to present dialogues with the participants that were overlooked in the initial data analysis.

As the lead researcher and co-principal investigator, I was able to create the themes of the codebook on my own, and led a research team to peer review it. I was also in charge of analyzing the codebook upon completion. I used Atlas T.I. to create and analyze the codebook.

The research team’s effort yielded incredible results. We used the data we collected to present the following poster at a research symposium.

KEY FINDINGS AND IMPACT: We found over 100 marginalia and nearly 150 unexpected answers of note in 240 surveys, a substantial amount. We coded these responses into 36 categories. The codebook was robust and included many types of responses, but a lot of the notable marginalia could be distilled into a few categories. They mostly indicated confusion, disgust, and explanations of answers. This range of emotion and expression showed that surveys may have been a poor medium for inquiring about oral health.

These main categories also showed the team how answers were added to, or even altered because of marginalia. Due to the constraints of how surveys are analyzed, these marginalia were not captured in the initial data analysis. This is unfortunate, because the surveyors often lost out on important data. This study spoke to the importance of including some type of analysis or acknowledgement of marginalia, as there is a possibility that the survey instruments are simply poorly designed. This study also added to sparse research on a consistent form of human expression: wanting to express more, and more intensely.

A Story Map by Refugee Communities: Places of Importance

Research Team Member: December 2016 – May 2018

Maps show what we find important enough to represent. Often times, these representations lack context. Our goal with this project was to create maps by refugees, centering the virtual and physical places they have found and built community. This project was part of a global effort by the University of California Critical Refugee Studies Collective.

THE RESULTING STORY MAP

PROCESS AND IMPACT: I was part of a team that interviewed members of various refugee groups in the Central Valley to highlight meaningful places to these communities. The exploration of digital spaces to gather was part of my contribution to this project. The resulting storymap speaks to the resilience of refugee groups in rebuilding their communities. This story map is an unprecedented representation of how refugee communities continue to grow and flourish.

Thank you for reading! Please get in touch if you’d like to ask questions, discuss more, or share feedback.

Email: yechuriakhila@gmail.com