Online Program

Role of community-based needs assessment in collaborative engineering projects: A case study in rural Western Africa

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Daniel Kim, Yale University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Natalie Pancer, Yale University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Laura Skrip, PhD candidate, School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Paul Di Capua, MD, MBA, Department of Medicine, Division of Health Services, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Residents in Rohvitangitaa, Cameroon (Roh) have historically collected water from polluted streams or a poorly designed water system, resulting in high rates of disease. The Yale University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA (Yale-EWB) has partnered with Roh to construct a new gravity-fed water distribution system to provide a sustainable source of clean drinking water. In May 2012, a team traveled to Roh and assessed the community's health and logistical needs according to principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR). Specifically, Yale-EWB collaborated with a peer-elected water committee to visit households (n=119) and administer a semi-structured interview assessing waterborne illness symptom prevalence, water usage practices, and problems with the current system. We found that 48% of households self-reported past-month diarrhea, 63% did not boil their drinking water, and 57% specifically mentioned collaboration with an external group as a means of addressing community needs. This approach proved indispensable to our engineering project: the data provided insight into the community's current health status and has informed education efforts on water handling practices as well as reinforced the need for an updated system with improved water quality; the process of survey administration built a mutual trust by ensuring that the team engaged with the vast majority of the community; and qualitative questions initiated discussion about Yale-EWB's role in and the community's contribution to building, maintaining, and owning the final system. We suggest that the CBPR approach be incorporated as standard practice in collaborative engineering projects in developing countries to facilitate their success and sustainability.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the benefits of engaging community members in a pre-implementation needs assessment for collaborative engineering projects in developing countries. Identify best practices for incorporating principles of CBPR in survey development and administration. Assess baseline status of water access and utilization, waterborne illness, and hygiene in a target community through both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Keyword(s): Drinking Water Quality, Community Health Assessment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Co-President of the Yale University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA and have participated in all aspects of the development and implementation of the needs assessment in Rohvitangitaa, Cameroon. During our visit in Cameroon, I served as one of the primary data collectors and had extensive interaction with the community.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.