Project Spotlight: Zika Research in Infants and Pregnant Women in Colombia

The Problem:

Zika Virus (ZIKV) was declared a global health threat in 2016.  Although most of the cases can be attributed to infected bites of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, a proportion of new Zika infections are due to sexual transmission from infected males to their partnersZIKV infection features general symptoms such as mild headaches and fever.  However, consequences of infections during pregnancy can be catastrophic. ZIKV infections during pregnancy are causally linked to microcephaly in new born babies (small heads) and other negative pregnancy outcomes.

Learn more about Zika from the CDC.

The Work:

The project Zika en Embarazadas y Ninos (ZEN) targets the population who were exposed to ZIKV.  ZEN has been executed in two phases.   During the first phase, the project staff followed a cohort of pregnant women, their partners, and their newborn infants, in the regions of Atlántico, Valle, and Santander in Colombia to better understand the association between ZIKV during pregnancy and the spectrum of possible adverse outcomes related to infection during pregnancy.  During the second phase, the babies from the first phase-cohort are followed to further explore functional deficits, their magnitude, and their association to other deficits later in life.  For this purpose, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Instituto Nacional de Salud in Colombia proposed the recruitment and follow-up of 5000 women and their 1250 children, until children reach 4 years of age.

The Vysnova Impact:

Vysnova provides comprehensive project management support for the scientific research of the ZEN study. We help our client meet their objectives by managing international purchases, human resources, technical requirements, and logistics, all while controlling costs and providing risk management.

Through crucial partnerships and subcontractors, Vysnova ensures high quality research and procures the technical skills needed for the study. We partner with academic institutions conducting similar research in Latin America to increase the study’s sample size of women who have or have been exposed to ZIKV. Vysnova also works closely with local companies to provide digital data storage and management for the samples collected from the field. This allows our client to easily analyze and access the data, which will be utilized for years to come. Vysnova also recruits and hires technical experts in child psychology that train field staff to assess babies with specific tools. These assessments analyze motor skills, psychological capacity, and other developmental patterns found within the children being studied. These skills are easily transferable to other ZIKV studies and enhance specialization of Colombian medical staff that will be used long after the study concludes.

The success of our clients’ projects is at the forefront of our efforts here at Vysnova. Our greatest contribution to that success lies in the relationships that Vysnova fosters through partnerships, subcontractors, local staff, vendors, and consultants. Vysnova looks forward to continuing to support public health projects within Latin America and globally.

Project Spotlight: The DHS Program

The Problem:

The recent Ebola and Zika epidemics have shown just how vital health sector data is in anticipating, monitoring, and responding to health threats. With varying levels of access to healthcare and limited health records in countries where it matters most, it is not an easy task to collect accurate health data across the world. Moreover, the health conditions of many low- and middle-income countries are evolving; and with this evolution, different data is needed across countries and regions. For example, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa is more likely to request data on maternal health and child nutrition; whereas, a country in Europe may be more interested in data on obesity or smoking habits. The challenges in the face of accurate and comprehensive health data collection, however, do not minimize its importance.

The Work:

The Demographic & Health Survey (DHS) Program has long featured the ability to respond adequately to changing data needs while ensuring data quality and accessibility. Currently finishing its seventh iteration (DHS MEASURE 7), The DHS Program is renowned for (1) providing technical assistance for quality household and facility-based data collection, analysis, dissemination, and use; (2) providing technical leadership to develop and adapt survey methodologies to meet existing and emerging data needs; and (3) actively encouraging data analysis and use through capacity strengthening activities, data visualization tool development and roll out, and online archiving of data and indicators for free public access and use. The data collected through The DHS Program provides necessary information for monitoring progress made towards achieving USAID’s three strategic global health priorities: (1) preventing child and maternal death; (2) controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and (3) combatting infectious disease.

Find out more about USAID’s The DHS Program.

The Vysnova Impact:

Vysnova Partners provides strategic technical assistance in support of The DHS Program. As a subcontractor to ICF International, Vysnova’s diverse staff pilots new methods of collecting data to improve timeliness, reliability, and policy relevance. Our staff supports survey design, data collection, data management, data analysis, evaluation, and other survey/research tasks in support of MEASURE 7, as we did in our involvement in the previous phase (MEASURE 6) of the Program.

Each survey designed by The DHS Program is tailored to the specific health, cultural, socio-economic, and political conditions of each country. Vysnova staff works hard to provide in-country technical assistance and uphold the standards of The DHS Program in order to have the maximum impact on improving the health conditions of the host countries.

Project Spotlight: General Services Administration Common Acquisition Platform and Category Management Support

The Problem:

The General Services Administration (GSA) is currently engaged in several initiatives to transform the Government’s acquisition processes, systems, and strategies. The primary objective of the Common Acquisition Platform (CAP). program is to develop and deploy acquisition tools and systems to advance strategic acquisition initiatives, most notably the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) sponsored government-wide Category Management initiative. GSA requires subject matter experts (SMEs) and analysts in many areas to support this effort.

The Work:

As a member of a multi-contractor team, Vysnova is currently supporting the Government in developing a strategic path forward for CAP founded upon organizational change management, customer and stakeholder engagement and adoption, and the cultural transition into agile thinking and development. Vysnova has assisted in establishing a foundational strategy and framework upon which a sustainable, agile and scalable platform is being constructed.

Vysnova staff is also supporting the GSA provided Project Management Office (PMO) for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sponsored Government-wide Category Management initiative.  Some of the high-level activities under Vysnova’s management include cost analysis of category commodities, acquisition planning assistance for multiple categories, strategic sourcing support, supporting supplier relationship management initiatives, crafting acquisition policy initiatives to further support category management, and developing communication plans to disseminate information on category management initiatives.

The Vysnova Impact:

Vysnova personnel are viewed as trusted advisors in the management and operations of the Category Management PMO and by the Category Managers whom they directly support.

 

The Proof:

With support of the contractor team, the GSA Director of Category Management Strategic Execution received a 2017 Federal 100 award. The Government-wide Category Management PMO was also named a Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Commissioner Spotlight Award winner for 2016.

Project Spotlight: Defense Acquisition University Distance Learning Course Development

The Problem:

Defense Acquisition University (DAU) had an existing distance learning course on business decisions for contracting. The course was dated, contained disparate content, and did not engage the learner. DAU needed subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop a new course that was up-to-date and engaging for students.

 

The Work:

The Vysnova SMEs have extensive background in developing and deploying training materials across defense and civilian agencies. The Vysnova team worked together to develop an updated course that met the needs of DAU. The team developed an integrated, scenario-based course that links the course topics and engages learners, as well as making the topics more robust.

The Vysnova SMEs used an enhanced, research-based ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) method to develop the course. This curriculum development effort included an up front, in-depth research effort—in development of the Content Analysis Report (CAR)— that informed the Course Design Document (CDD), which served as the blueprint for the follow-on development effort.

 

The Vysnova Impact:

With this comprehensive approach that took on the existing course’s challenges first hand, the Vysnova team was able to develop a comprehensive course that builds on Contracting Level I curriculum and offers the contracting knowledge necessary to process complex procurements.

 

The Proof:

“Dr. Fallon’s team was able to effectively integrate a once disparate course of standalone modules in a manner that is already proving to engage the DAU students. Additionally, DAU now has a DAWIA [Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act] Level II course that weaves in the critical concepts of communications, stakeholder engagement and other key, soft skills that are paramount in executing strategic procurement.” –  DAU CON Level II Performance Learning Director.

Project Spotlight: Zika Ecological Research (Animal Reservoirs) in Peru, Colombia and Brazil

The Problem:

Zika. And it’s a big one. The Zika virus (which is passed to humans by mosquitoes) is severely impacting dozens of developing countries in Central and South America. Zika has only recently begun to spread in the Western Hemisphere, and there isn’t a lot of research or information on the specifics of the virus (how it spreads, carriers, etc.). Currently, there is no effective treatment for the Zika virus.

Learn more about Zika from the CDC.

The Work:

Vysnova Partners is supporting the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in its effort to conduct a Zika surveillance study which includes animals (mammals and birds) that may act as reservoirs and vectors (mosquitoes) in Latin America. Vysnova was awarded a two-year contract to coordinate the efforts in four research sites (two in Colombia, one in Peru and one in Brazil). The research teams are collecting different kinds of samples (blood and tissues) from animals who live in and near the active area of the disease (reported human cases). Their research will attempt to determine which species are more likely to be carriers of the virus, with the eventual goal of developing effective strategies to control the animal carriers and combat the virus’ spread.

This effort is supported by key local partners such as the Universidad de Cordoba and Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, Universidae Catolica Dom Bosco and Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso in Brazil and U.S. NAMRU-6 in Peru.

The Vysnova Impact:

The challenge faced in conducting this Zika research lies within the diversity of the research sites. Each location and test subject is unique and this project faces an additional challenge in considering the variety of the animal species being tested.

Each research site is unique, but it is the Vysnova team’s job to ensure each site maintains high levels of consistency to ensure that the findings will be comparable across sites and that the research will be beneficial in providing recommendations with the goal of understanding the disease and the role of different species as reservoirs for the virus—and ultimately, ending the spread of the virus.

The Vysnova team is composed of experienced project management and technical staff with vast knowledge in their respective fields. Most of the work is managed out of Vysnova’s Latin America regional office based in Lima, Peru by local staff, which allows for a more comprehensive approach and solutions tailored to the specific needs of the countries understanding their particular reality.