November 9, 2016 | ,

Behind the blog series “Strength in connections”

How a writer and a data analyst dug deep to bring us stories from Kenya's lifesaving APHIAplus Western project.
Portrait of Emily Beylerian (L) and Celina Kareiva (R).
(L to R) Emily Beylerian, a PATH data analyst, and Celina Kareiva, a PATH writer and project coordinator, worked together to connect us with the communities and people involved with a PATH-led project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) called APHIAplus Western project, short for AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Zone 1. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

Editor’s note: A wide-reaching project in Western Kenya is having a profound effect on the lives of children and adults by tackling a complicated web of health issues. The PATH-led APHIAplus Western, short for AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance, is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

For 100 Kenyan shillings, or just one US dollar, you can buy a heaping serving of lentils, cooked kale, and chapati, at Sandy’s restaurant in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city. The small restaurant doesn’t have a menu, but through word of mouth, foreigners learn of the kitchen favorites. If you scrunch up the chapati (similar to doughy pita), you can form something of a ladle. Patrons pull up chairs, circling tables that spill into the hallway. They sit elbow to elbow with strangers as they hunch over their hot plates of food.

This is how Emily Beylerian and I would often meet up to share our day.

The two of us, normally based in the PATH headquarters in Seattle, were lucky enough to spend a month working face-to-face with our Kenyan colleagues. We were there with the aim of documenting the breadth and success of a six-year project throughout its ten counties in Western Kenya. The task at hand: to understand and report back on the PATH-led USAID-funded APHIAplus Western project (short for AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Zone 1).

Our separate experiences—my background in health communications and Emily’s in data analytics—gave us different perspectives through which to see and share what we learned. And since Sandy’s was mere steps away from the PATH office in Kisumu, it was a popular place for us to gather.

The APHIAplus Western project, a clever play on the Swahili word afya meaning health, indeed addresses health from every angle. The project aims to help the Ministry of Health provide a health care continuum to families: the maternal and child health clinic serves as an entry point for women and their children, and opportunities for contact expand and grow with their families.

In this integrated government of Kenya health system, patients are able to access tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS services, cervical cancer screenings, family planning methods, and childhood immunizations all under one roof. APHIAplus Western also draws on existing local networks of frontline community health workers to bolster knowledge and refer clients to health facilities for more advanced care. The result is a health care network that is more than the sum of its parts, and PATH is responsible for implementing the project within 800 health facilities across Western Kenya. APHIAplus Western also offers an integrated web of programming, ranging from trainings for health care workers to behavior change interventions that address provider attitudes and the stigma surrounding such diseases as HIV/AIDS.

A map of Kenya with an enlarged inset that details a portion of the map.
APHIAplusWestern is more than the sum of its parts. Led by PATH and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the initiative works with nearly 800 health facilities in 10 counties that hold more than 10 million people. Illustration: PATH/Sara McSorley.

After five-plus years and the delivery of a range of programmatic interventions, PATH has seen incredible successes. But much like siloed services within the health system, the data and personal experiences that had emerged from APHIAplus Western were often viewed separately.

Emily and I would discuss the commonalities in our work as we sat over lunch at Sandy’s. While linking field visits to the data points, we came to believe we could bring everyone to the table by layering these lenses. The Strength in connections blog series is an attempt to integrate data with personal stories, showcasing the project from both perspectives.

The AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance (APHIAplus) program is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Posted in: , , , , , , ,
  • Celina Kareiva is a project coordinator on both the Menstrual Health and Applied Behavioral Communication work teams at PATH.
  • Emily Beylerian is a data analyst and an associate in the Results Management, Measurement, and Learning department at PATH.