Duke students Mia Murphy, Brian Linder and Shae Nicolaisen reflect on their summer Student Research Training (SRT) project working with Clinica Esperanza, a community health clinic on the island of Roatan, Honduras. The team planned to work on two projects – one assessing risks of dental caries, or cavities, in the community, and a second collecting data on the postnatal experiences of mothers who received prenatal care at the clinic.
Throughout the summer, we experienced significant delays in both our dental caries project and the postnatal surveys.
COVID-19 was a major factor, especially for the collection of postnatal surveys. Because of the pandemic, our community partner, Clinica Esperanza, closed its OB/GYN clinic, which meant that women who had visited the clinic for prenatal appointments had to give birth at the hospital instead. Typically, they continued going to the hospital for postnatal checkups, which made it difficult for the clinic to complete follow-up surveys. This was complicated by the fact that on Roatan, residents frequently change phone numbers, and so it can be hard to track people down remotely.
As a result, the clinic was able to collect only 48 postnatal surveys from the 220 mothers that had visited for prenatal appointments. Although this was a smaller data set than we had expected, after consulting with our mentor, Dr. Dennis Clements, we decided to go ahead with our analysis.
Despite the smaller data set, we have found some significant correlations. Mothers who had prenatal visits at the clinic were more likely to have taken prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. Another important finding for our community partner is that all 220 mothers who received prenatal care at the clinic responded that they would consider giving birth there, which could prompt the clinic to reopen birthing services when it is considered safe again.
For the dental project, some of the obstacles had nothing to do with the pandemic. Clinica Esperanza had a few challenges through the beginning of summer with dental equipment needing repair, which delayed examinations that were to supply data for our analysis.
We are still receiving 5-9 survey responses each week, but we don’t anticipate reaching our goal of 200 completed surveys by the end of the summer. We plan to continue data collection and input into the fall semester, with the hope that the next SRT team can pick up where we left off.
While we don’t have enough data to analyze yet, we are observing any connection between responses to questions about dental habits, including flossing, brushing, and the presence of dental erosion or self-reported previous dental caries. We hope that this project can create a meaningful foundation for future research in dental hygiene in Honduras, while also helping inform Clinica Esperanza on how to tailor their current outreach efforts to the community.