Hesperian Health Guides is a small non-profit organization in Berkeley focused on health education and community empowerment. They’re best known for creating the book Where There is No Doctor, a widely-used manual for health workers, educators, and others involved in primary care and health promotion around the world. Their work has expanded to include print materials on a wide variety of health topics, and free digital materials including a health wiki and mobile apps. Hesperian became interested in producing an app on safe abortion because an increasing number of users were accessing its online Healthwiki from mobile phones, and to reference reproductive health information, and safe abortion information in particular. The goals of the Safe Abortion app were to provide free, comprehensive, practical abortion information in a discrete, user-friendly format that would be accessible offline and without using a data plan once the app had been downloaded.
At the outset of this project, the Safe Abortion app had already been developed and tested with a variety of potential users in 13 countries in Africa and Latin America, but relatively little testing with US users had been done. Given increasing abortion restrictions in the US, Hesperian wanted to understand ways the app could be used in the US context and what modifications would make it more useful to US users. Based on previous testing of the app in Latin America, Hesperian knew that it was being used by abortion accompaniers and supporters. Because there is also a model of abortion accompaniment and support by laypeople in the US, we focused on these individuals for our research. The goal of this project was to understand the role of the Safe Abortion app in meeting the informational needs of US abortion support workers. The objectives were to characterize the work of US abortion support workers, identify the informational needs and habits of US abortion support workers, and understand how the Safe Abortion app does and does not address the informational needs of US abortion support workers.
Data were collected through semi-structured virtual interviews and companion surveys with current US abortion support workers recruited via email outreach. Interview transcripts were analyzed using inductive and deductive codes and content analysis is ongoing.
This internship gave me the opportunity to apply qualitative research methods I learned in class, and to expand upon these. I also appreciated the opportunity to step out of an academic headspace and think through a research problem in a new setting.
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