How do you begin to map the existence of not-for-profit, non-government hospitals and clinics sitting outside the health system in developing countries, given they can't be found on the internet?
That is the challenge ANU College of Asia and the Pacific PhD student Belinda Thompson has set herself. While the goal is to develop a typology of these health facilities, first she needs to find as many of them as she can.
The first step in this process is a new four-question survey which attempts to capture information beyond the reaches of traditional academic literature. She has launched an appeal for both the ANU and broader communities to help, by answering a survey.
"Attempting to 'map' the sector is incredibly difficult because so many of these facilities fly beneath the radar, unattached to major non-government organisations and un-represented at key institutions," said Thompson, who is based in the College's Crawford School of Public Policy.
"People often became aware of these facilities through personal experience or through friends associated with a facility because they've donated, visited or volunteered there.
"Sometimes they are included in grey literature like donor reports as part of an anecdote or as an off-hand reference.
"So I need to tap into that 'word-of-mouth' community; I need people to rack their memories and see what they come up with. Even if the answer is nothing, that is still relevant and so I'm hoping people will answer the survey regardless.
"This research is vitally important because these facilities are literally saving tens of thousands of lives, yet we know very little about them.
"I am hopeful that by the end of my PhD research not only will the donor community know more about their work, but the facilities themselves will find synergies and ways they could work together to grow and prosper in the future."
To complete the survey go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/G58X8H2
Anyone interested in following the outcomes of the survey or Thompson's broader research in this area can leave their email at the end of the survey for future updates. Full details on how the data will be stored are available on the survey page.
By Belinda Cranston.