A Connaxis communications team visited Manipal, and Bengaluru to gain first-hand insight into the context in which the PRESCRIP-TEC project is being carried out in India. During these visits the team met with project partners, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM), and St. John’s Medical College.
While in India, the Connaxis team also held a communication workshop, using a hybrid modality, with all seven project partners from across the country. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to meet some PRESCRIP-TEC beneficiaries in Bengaluru, and to collect visual materials to use in future communications. These activities combined contributed greatly to a much better understanding of the situation in India as it relates to the PRESCRIP-TEC project.
Strengthening ties and meeting face-to-face
The PRESCRIP-TEC Project in India is being funded by the Department of Biotechnology of the Ministry of Science & Technology of India. The project leader in the country is MAHE, and this was the first institution visited by Oscar Casanova and Ekaterina Gomez from Connaxis.
MAHE’s participation is very significant as they had developed an algorithm for analysing images of the cervix taken with an android device. This AI analysis of the images provides a support system for healthcare workers by enabling instant decision making during cervical cancer screening. The algorithm has an accuracy of 97.94%, a sensitivity of 99.05% and specificity of 97.16%.
Details about the work done by MAHE, and how it was done, are very important so that it can be shared with the other project partners and the scientific community. This is why the Connaxis team recorded interviews with the lead scientists in charge of the research, namely Arathi Rao, Shyamala Guruvare, and Keerthana Prasad. They explained the role of MAHE and how the organisation was working together with the other PRESCRIP-TEC partners in India.
The teams also viewed an interactive presentation about Manipal University. This was followed by visits to an urban primary health care centre in the Manipal district and the MAHE’s international relationships office.
To further strengthen the communication skills of the seven consortium partners in India, Connaxis held a communication workshop. MAHE and the Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) teams attended the workshop in person while the other institutions involved in the project were connected virtually.
The workshop was presented in two sessions. The first session took place at facilities provided by MAHE, and then the teams travelled to Udupi to continue the workshop at the SDM facilities. After a welcome ceremony prepared by SDM, the second part of the workshop continued with the same attendees.
During this trip, Connaxis also visited the Udupi College of Ayurveda and hospital facilities. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medical approaches and remains one of India’s traditional healthcare systems. Traditional medicine is used by 70 percent of the rural population in India.
SDM is one of the most recognized and important colleges of higher education in the country and they support technology and innovation in their approach to health care. SDM is one of the PRESCRIP-TEC partners and they are in direct contact with the beneficiaries in resource-poor settings.
Documenting PRESCRIP-TEC’s work in Bengaluru
After the meeting with MAHE and SDM, the Connaxis team traveled to Bengaluru to meet with Dr. Premalatha and her team at St. John’s Medical College. They also had a meeting with the dean of the college during which experiences were exchanged around the PRESCRIP-TEC project and the institution’s approach to the work.
The teams were also able to visit the infectious diseases department at St. John’s hospital where the HPV self-test swabs are received and examined.
During one of the days, the Connaxis team also visited Swasti, an NGO partnering with St. John’s Medical College. Swasti is in charge of implementing field work with marginalised communities.
The management and communication teams of Swasti explained the work they were doing with sex workers in several Bengaluru districts. After the meeting, the Connaxis team visited a sex worker who received them at her home and talked about her experiences.
The stories of the sex workers in Bengaluru corroborated that PRESCRIP-TEC was having a real impact in disadvantaged sectors of society that would otherwise not have any access to prevention or screening.
These stories will be used to show the impact of the project. However, to protect the privacy of the beneficiaries, their faces did not appear in any of the photos or videos that were taken.
Positive Outcomes of the Visit
Thanks to the activities arranged by the MAHE in Manipal, the SDM college and Hospital of Ayurveda in Udupi, and the St. John’s Medical College in Bengaluru, Connaxis now has the necessary background information about the current status of the project in India and the circumstances in which it is being conducted. They also have a deeper understanding of how the different consortium partners interrelate and cooperate with each other.
The communication workshop was very productive. As it was attended by representatives of all the organisations participating in the project in India, it was possible to arrive at the precise definition of the target audiences, taking into account the circumstances of each community.
From what the team observed, all the consortium members in India have also organised face to face events and activities to reach the eligible women in the beneficiary communities. In some cases, these activities are coordinated through local NGOs. All the consortium partners in India, and the Manipal University in particular, also network and maintain fruitful relationships with policy makers at different levels. They have already organised several events to which key stakeholders were invited.