The SPEAR Project

Full title: COVID-19 Social Science and Public Engagement Action Research in Vietnam, Indonesia and Nepal (SPEAR): Exploring the experiences and impacts of COVID-19 for healthcare workers and vulnerable communities

Funded by: OUCRU (Wellcome funding)

Principal Investigators: Jennifer Van Nuil, Sonia Lewycka, Mary Chambers, Abhilasha Karkey, Raph Hamers

SPEAR in Vietnam

OUCRU Vietnam Principal Investigators: Jennifer Ilo Van Nuil, Sonia Lewycka, Mary Chambers

Description of team

The SPEAR project in Vietnam is being led by Jennifer Ilo Van Nuil and Sonia Lewycka for the social science components and Mary Chambers for the public engagement component, with project management support from Jaom Fisher. There will be four main sites in Vietnam including Hospital for Tropical Diseases (HTD) in Ho Chi Minh City, National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, and areas with ongoing research collaborations in Nam Dinh and Dak Lak. OUCRU’s team working with HTD include Ngoc Nguyen Thi Kim, Hien Tran Minh, along with collaborators from the hospital including Dr. Nguyen Thanh Phong, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Truong, and Head Nurse Bui Thi Hong Ngoc. Ha Nguyen Thanh will coordinate the work in Nam Dinh and Hanoi with the following team members working on the social science component: Yen Nguyen Thi Hong, Nam Vinh Nguyen, and Hang Tran Thi, along with collaborators from National Hospital for Tropical Diseases. Ha Nguyen Thanh, PhD student, and Yen Nguyen Hoang will coordinate the work in Dak Lak on the social science and engagement data collection.

Purpose / Hypothesis

The purpose of the project is to draw on anthropological and participatory engagement methods to explore the wider socio-cultural context of COVID-19 and its impact on health-related workers and vulnerable communities in Vietnam, Nepal, and Indonesia in order to inform guidance on strengthening support for health workers and improving access to public health measures for the most vulnerable populations.


The findings of these studies will be valuable for partner and government organizations in the countries that OUCRU works in to inform:

  • Guidelines on strengthening support for health workers;
  • Guidelines to improve access of the most vulnerable populations to public health measures; and
  • The development of targeted and pertinent public health messaging.

These studies will also feed into global discussions and guidelines and in particular WHO think tanks on ‘Ethics and Public Engagement and COVID-19 that the Global Bioethics Network is contributing. The Principal Investigators are members of this group.

Primary Objectives

The primary objectives include:

  1. Identify and describe the experiences and perceptions of healthcare workers and other healthcare staff during/after the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
  2. Explore the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on vulnerable communities in Nepal, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
  3. Identify misinformation circulating within these populations and co-design targeted evidenced-based public engagement.

SPEAR in Nepal

OUCRU Nepal Principal Investigator: Abhilasha Karkey

Description of team

The SPEAR project in Nepal is being managed by Samita Rijal on the social science side and Summita Udas on the public engagement side. Summita Udas Shakya is a public and community engagement Officer at OUCRU-NP. She has a master’s in anthropology and is also a counseling psychology student. She works to raise the profile of health research and science in Nepal through participatory and fun activities. Her public engagement team consists of Sarita (social sciences), Babin (graphic design) and Sushmita (communications). Samita Rijal is a clinical trial officer at Oxford university clinical research unit based in Patan hospital. She has a Master’s in pharmacology and is currently pursuing a Master’s in psychology. The psychology team for the study includes Dr. Rabi Shakya, Dr. Pawan Sharma, and Anup Rajbhandari, all senior practicing psychiatrists at the Patan Hospital.

SPEAR in Indonesia

EOCRU Indonesia Principal Investigator: Raph Hamers

Description of team

The SPEAR project in Indonesia is being led by Dr Dewi Friska, from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Indonesia and Dr Raph Hamers. The study will be conducted in three provinces in Indonesia, including DKI Jakarta, West Java and Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). The project is being coordinated by Ragil Dien and Mutia Rahardjani from EOCRU. The study team also includes Dr Aria Kekalih, from the Department of Community Medicine, University of Indonesia, Livia Nathania Kurniawan, an engagement officer supporting the public engagement components of this project, and Ida Ayu Sutrisni, Diana Timoria and Ralalicia Limato, who are EOCRU staff responsible for the social science components. The SPEAR project is collaborating with Sumba Foundation for the implementation in the NTT site.