Thursday, April 11, 2013

and we're off!

Today, data collection began. We were rushed into a van at 12:30, after our standard cafeteria lunch: a Styrofoam takeout container of oily veggies, steamed rice, egg soup, and fried seafood or meat chunks. We drove out of Shanghai, past the high rises, past the half-completed roller coaster, past the Ikea, and past a pickup trucking carrying a half-dozen snoozing construction workers and into a countryside blooming yellow with canola.

We’re recruiting the participants at a local community health clinic, and again I am in awe of the dichotomy of this country. Here, drinking tap water is out of the question, as it is polluted (or contaminated with the remnants of thousands of dead pigs, as the case may be). Internet access is unreliable at best.  Yet, everyone—even in the countryside—has a smartphone souped up with all the apps imaginable. There are LCD TVs adorning most rooms of this small community clinic, broadcasting cartoons, the news, and ads every waking minute. [Incidentally, today they kept showing images of North Korea and a giant nuclear warhead. Pretty frightening imagery to see, especially when I can’t understand the accompanying audio).

Collecting data is controlled chaos. The participants start arriving, and there are children and interviewers and participants all talking and yelling over top one another. It’s odd yet exciting, after having planned and poured over every last detail for months, to relinquish this study to the interviewers and participants, most of whom I can’t even speak to. To let go, both literally and metaphorically.  

food models for the interviewer training...
my favorite are the unfortunate-loooking dumplings on the right
controlled chaos during participant registration.
looks like this guy is giving me the ol' NU   "Go Cats!" wave!
I’m excited to see what we get back. I’m also quite grateful, for numerous reasons. The first is that the CDC staff is both capable and experienced, so I can be confident things are going the way they’re supposed to without knowing each detail.  The second is that this district is where the current outbreak of the avian flu is happening, and for a tense moment we weren’t sure we would have enough interviewers for the study. Luckily, we seem to be all set.  I’m also grateful this study is on beverages not food, as the cessation of poultry products would cause significant bias in a dietary assessment study. In any case, I’m more grateful than ever to be a vegetarian! 

sign in the community hospital: don't touch dead birds!
public health campaigning at its finest...

at least we knew the hospital cafeteria was good to go


No comments: