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Posts Tagged ‘Maternal Health Task Force’

This post is the first in a series on maternal health in the Seraikela block of Jharkhand, India. 

In 2009, Sarah Blake and I worked together at the Maternal Health Task Force, a Gates Foundation funded maternal health initiative based at EngenderHealth in New York City. Since then, Sarah went on to work as a consultant with several non-profit organizations, including UNFPA and Women Deliver.  I took off for India as a Clinton Fellow with the American India Foundation where I have been working for the past nine months on a maternal and newborn health project in Jharkhand, a state with high levels of maternal and newborn deaths.

A new mom holds her newborn in a small community called Sini, in the Seraikela block, as community members look on.

Sarah and I recently teamed up again (this time, in India) to explore our common interest in maternal health. Over the past two weeks, we have visited hospitals, health centers, government offices, rural villages, and homes in the Seraikela block, a rural area with rugged terrain and limited infrastructure outside the industrial city of Jamshedpur, in the state of Jharkhand.  We conducted a series of interviews with women, families, health workers, and government health officials. We asked questions about pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. We learned about the women’s experiences with home and institutional deliveries–and the factors that influence their decision to deliver at home or in an institution. We explored the implementation of and attitudes toward Janani Suraksha Yojana, a conditional cash transfer program that aims to increase institutional deliveries across India.

A collapsed road on the way from Jamshedpur to the Seraikela Block of Jharkhand.

Conditional cash transfers are trendy. Various governments, non-governmental organizations, and private enterprises across the globe are supporting cash transfer initiatives in efforts to improve school attendance, reduce child under-nutrition, improve maternal and newborn health, and to address other development goals.

What is a conditional cash transfer program? According to the World Bank, “conditional cash transfer programs provide cash payments to poor households that meet certain behavioral requirements, generally related to children’s health care and education”.

Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a widely discussed (mostly within the global health community but to some extent in mainstream media) and frequently praised cash transfer program. JSY was launched by the Indian government as part of the National Rural Health Mission in 2005, in an effort to reduce maternal and newborn deaths by increasing institutional deliveries.

JSY provides cash incentives to women who deliver in government health institutions as well as accredited private health centers. The program also provides a cash incentive to the health worker who supports the woman throughout her pregnancy and accompanies her to the facility. (For details and FAQs on JSY, click here.)

A community health worker accompanies a pregnant woman to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Jamshedpur, the main referral hospital for the surrounding rural communities.

Maternal and newborn death rates have gradually been declining across India (and the world), but the problem has yet to be resolved. Both maternal and newborn deaths in India continue to make up an extremely large percentage of the overall global burden. According to a study published in the Lancet last year, 20% of global maternal deaths and 31% of global newborn deaths in 2005 occurred in India.

JSY is a big program (the biggest of its kind in the world) that aims to deal with a big problem. The lessons that are drawn from it have the potential to influence global health policy in a big way. The 2010 evaluation of JSY published in the Lancet suggested that the program is having a significant impact on perinatal and neonatal health, but the paper asserted that the verdict was still out in terms of any impact on maternal mortality.

The lesson that has emerged from JSY for newborn health is that giving women money increases institutional deliveries and reduces perinatal and neonatal mortality.  It is likely that the same message will emerge in terms of reducing maternal mortality—and there is a good chance that this approach will be picked up in national health programs in numerous other countries that also have high levels of maternal and newborn mortality.

Our concern is that JSY is far more complex than providing women with money—and reducing maternal mortality is far more complex than increasing institutional delivery.

Given the scope, cost, and potential of JSY; it is incredibly important that we ask questions about the nuances of JSY—the role of money as an incentive for women, families and health workers; the readiness of institutions;  the challenges with transportation; the human rights implications of the program; and a variety of other related factors.

Over the next week (or couple of weeks), Sarah and I will share our experiences and insights from our time with the women, families, health workers, and government health officials of the Seraikela block of Jharkhand, a focus state for JSY. We will highlight stories from the people most impacted by and involved in Janani Suraksha Yojana.

We believe that we have scratched the surface of some interesting issues related to JSY, but our time in Seraikela certainly left us with more questions than answers, and we will be sharing those questions in upcoming posts.

We will also be asking our colleagues working in maternal and newborn health to share their thoughts through guest blog posts. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, contact us at katemitch@gmail.com and sarahcblake@gmail.com.

Tata Steel Rural Development Society, my host organization for my fellowship, provided us with transportation and interpreter services. Many thanks to Shabnam Khaled for her help with translation. 

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In my last few weeks at the Maternal Health Task Force, I have been working with Raji Mohanam, Knowledge Management Specialist at the MHTF, Matthew Meschery, Director of Digital Initiatives at ITVS, and Lisa Russell, Filmmaker and Co-Founder of MDGFive.com, and an incredible team of presenters, to coordinate a panel presentation on digital tools for maternal health for the Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi. Take a look below for a post I wrote for the MHTF Blog about the upcoming panel session–with info on how to participate remotely.

I am off to India tomorrow! Check back next week for posts from the conference.

The upcoming Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi (August 30th-September 1st) will focus on lessons learned, neglected issues, and innovative approaches to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. The anticipated outcome of the conference is increased consensus around the evidence, programs and advocacy needed to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.

One session, Maternal Health Digital, will showcase a number of digital communication tools being applied to maternal health. Matthew Meschery, Director of Digital Initiatives at the Independent Television Service, will moderate the session—and will guide panelists and participants through a lively discussion that will explore the potential of digital tools to improve the health of women around the world. Panelists will also address questions about how to measure the impact of such projects.

Throughout the session, conference participants will learn about an email help desk that is aiming to increase access to misoprostol and mifepristine, a mobile phone and radio initiative that is aiming to improve delivery of maternal and neonatal health services, an online media “mash-up” tool that is enabling users to make their own advocacy videos, a crowd-sourcing project that is tapping into the knowledge of front-line maternal health care providers in 9 languages, and more.

This exciting session will include presentations from Google.orgWomen on WebZMQ Software SystemsHealth ChildMDGFive.com, the Social Media Research Foundation, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis ReportingUniversity of Oxford, the Maternal Health Task Force, and the Independent Television Service.

Take a look at the session summary:

In recent years, the health, technology, and communication sectors have come together to innovate health communications through the use of digital media. Advances in tools for cross-media storytelling, social networking, digital games, real-time messaging, and mobile and location-aware technologies are being adapted to fit the needs of the maternal health community—and are helping to fuel the increased momentum around the issue. In this interactive session, conference participants will learn about a diverse range of innovative projects that are aiming to identify challenges and solutions for providing care to pregnant women, build stronger connections among maternal health organizations, create new ways to collect and use data, foster increased collaboration through engaging communities, and continue to drive attention toward the issue. As well as highlighting the promise of these new tools, we will also look at some specific challenges such as measuring impact, working in areas with limited connectivity, and merging online and offline strategies. There will be a series of mini-presentations on crowd-sourcing, interactive mapping, a media mash-up tool, an online reporting hub, mobile health campaigns, and more. Participants will not only get an over-view of a wide variety of strategies and recent developments in digital health communications—but they will also learn tips for applying many of these new tools to their own work and engage in a dialogue around how to maximize the utility of these technologies in order to significantly improve the health of women around the world.

This session will be live streamed! Click here for the live stream schedule.

Join the discussion via Twitter! Conference hashtag: #GMHC2010, Session hashtag: #GMHC2010Digital


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Final preparations are underway for the Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi! With only a couple of weeks until the conference, things have been very busy at the Maternal Health Task Force! Take a look below for the recently finalized live stream schedule. We will be streaming (open-access, no registration necessary) all plenary sessions as well as a number of parallel and panel sessions. In addition, ALL sessions will be archived for future viewing.

If you are interested in guest blogging about the conference sessions, click here for more info.

Cross-posted from the MHTF Blog.

In just a couple of weeks, the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) will convene an unprecedented gathering of over 600 maternal health experts and their allies in a global technical and programmatic meeting. The Global Maternal Health Conference 2010 aims to build on the existing momentum around MDG5.  The conference will focus on lessons learned, neglected issues, and innovative approaches to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. The anticipated outcome is increased consensus around the evidence, programs and advocacy needed to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.

In an effort to engage and inform a broader audience, the plenaries and several sessions will be live streamed.

For information on each of the sessions that will be live streamed–including speakers and abstracts, click on the session title below.

This schedule is in India Standard Time. Click here for a time zone converter!

ACCESS LIVE STREAM FOR ALL SESSIONS HERE.

August 30th, 2010

9:00-10:00 Inaugural

11:00-12:30 Plenary Session:
Global Progress on Maternal Health: The Numbers and Their Implications

13:30- 15:00 Parallel Session:
Human Resources for Maternal and Newborn Health: The Key Element

15:30- 17:00 Parallel Session:
Extremely Affordable Technologies for Maternal and Newborn Survival

August 31st, 2010

9:00-10:30 Plenary:
Community and Facility Interventions: Reframing the Discussion

10:45-12:15 Parallel Session:
Task-Shifting to Expand Access to EmOC: Developing a Deeper Understanding of What it Takes

13:45-15:15 Parallel Session:
Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Hemorrhage

15:30-17:15 Panel Session:
The Next Generation of Maternal Health Solutions from the Young Champions of Maternal Health

September 1st, 2010

9:00-10:00 Plenary Session:

Maternal Health Accountability: Successes, Failures and New Approaches

10:45-12:15 Parallel Session:
Indian Models of Public-Private Partnerships

13:45-15:15 Parallel Session:
Informatics to Improve Systems

15:30-17:15 Panel Session:
Maternal Health Digital

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In my role at the Maternal Health Task Force, I am helping to coordinate a global team of guest bloggers who will write about the Global Maternal Health Conference next month–and contribute to the online dialogue around the sessions occurring at the conference. The conference will be held in New Delhi, India–but several sessions will be live-streamed. If you are attending the conference in Delhi or plan to participate remotely via live-stream and are interested in blogging, see below for details on how to join the global team of guest bloggers!

Originally posted on the MHTF Blog.

Blogging Team

Blogging is an effective communications strategy for sharing information in real time and fueling dialogue around key maternal health issues. With the Global Maternal Health Conference 2010 right around the corner, our team is looking forward to a lively online discussion around the happenings of the conference. In an effort to fuel a robust dialogue with a variety of global perspectives, we are connecting with global health and development bloggers around the world.

At this time, we are in the process of identifying a cohort of articulate guest bloggers to convey the important activities happening at the conference. If you are attending the conference (either as a presenter or a participant, either in India or remotely via live webcast) and would like to guest blog about the work you are presenting or the sessions you attend, please submit a brief statement of interest or a sample blog post of less than 300 words to Kate Mitchell (kmitchell@engenderhealth.org).

Guest blog posts will be posted on the MHTF Blog and will be cross-posted on a number of other leading sexual and reproductive health, development, and global health blogs.

If you plan to blog about the conference on your own blog, please let us know! We would love to discuss linking to your posts and possibly cross-posting.

For more information, please contact Kate Mitchell (kmitchell@engenderhealth.org).



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The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Global Health Initiative, the Maternal Health Task Force, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) invite you to attend (or watch online) the sixth event of the series, Advancing Policy Dialogue on Maternal Health: The Impact of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity on Economic Development. The event will take place on July 29th from 3-5pm in Washington, D.C.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Event Details:

Investing in women and girls health is smart economics. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) women contribute to a majority of small businesses in the developing world and their unpaid work on the farm and at home account for one-third of the world’s GDP. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that maternal and newborn deaths cost the world $15 billion in lost productivity.

Mayra Buvinic, sector director of the gender and development group of the World Bank, will address the economic impact of maternal deaths and the role of education and gender equality on economic development. Dr. Nomonde Xundu, health attaché at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington DC will discuss the policy implications of maternal health and share lessons learned in empowering women and girl’s economic status in South Africa. Mary Ellen Stanton, senior maternal health advisor of USAID, will present the foreign policy and economic case for increased donor investment in maternal health.”

For more info and to RSVP, click here.

For info on future events and links to videos of previous events in the maternal health policy dialogue series, click here.

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I learned about a great resource yesterday for those working to improve the lives of women and girls, Girls Discovered: Global Maps of Adolescent Girls. The website has three main sections: Maps and Data, Sunita’s Story, and Take Action. The project is a collaborative effort of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Maplecroft.

The Maps and Data section has a nearly endless number of interactive maps and data sets focused on adolescent girls around the world across a number of health, education, social, economic, and population indices. Several of the maps provide interesting information about maternal health or issues impacting maternal health around the world–such as abortion legalizationage specific fertility, global anemia rates, births attended by skilled personnel, and several more.

Sunita’s Story seamlessly combines photos and narrative with maps and data to tell the personal story of one girl in India, Sunita–while also presenting the national burden and geographic distribution of the issues that she faces throughout her life. The presentation is simple and clean, making the information easy to consume.

The Take Action section has three PDF downloadable plans for taking action to address the issues of adolescent girls that are mapped on this site. There is a global action plan, a national action plan for India, and local action plan for India.

I encourage you to explore the site–it is a remarkable resource for those working on any of the various issues impacting adolescent girls and young women around the world.

Description of the project:

“The welfare of adolescent girls is crucial in determining economic and social outcomes for countries today, and in the future. For girls to become healthy mothers, productive citizens and economic contributors, their unique needs must be seen and understood.

Yet today, adolescent girls are undercounted and so underserved. Counting them is the first step to increasing their visibility.

Girls Discovered takes that first step. As a comprehensive source of maps and data on the status of adolescent girls worldwide, Girls Discovered helps donors, policy makers and implementing agencies target their investments.

This one-stop shop for information on adolescent girls is sourced from organizations operating in the public interest, and is meant for researchers, practitioners, advocates, policy-makers and the public – anyone who seeks change for the world’s 600 million adolescent girls.”

Mapping for Maternal Health:

A number of organizations have recently started using mapping technologies to provide visual representation of research and data while others are using mapping tools to link organizations working in maternal health in an effort to build a stronger and more interconnected community of maternal health professionals.

Take a look at a few of the maternal health maps I have visited recently.  Several are interactive and allow for user-generated content!

If you know of other maternal health mapping initiatives, please let me know in the comments section of this post!

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I was recently selected as a Clinton Fellow in maternal health with the American India Foundation which means I will be moving to India in September to work on the ground on a maternal and neonatal health project! This also means that my position with the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth will be open as of September.*

So…if you have a background in public health, gender studies, or a related field, are interested in using web-based communications tools, and are passionate about improving global maternal health–take a look at this job at the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth in New York City!

Job Summary:

“The Knowledge Management (KM) unit of the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) requires a highly motivated KM Assistant to help coordinate and implement the MHTF KM strategy and tactics. The KM Assistant will work closely with the KM Specialist in making its online knowledge portal robust, relevant, engaging, and user-friendly. The KM Assistant will proactively identify ways to engage current members and expand our audience.  This position provides a unique opportunity for those who are interested in how technology can help advance MDG5 goals.”

For more information about the job and to apply, click here.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about the position.

*While, I will be leaving my position with the Maternal Health Task Force, I will continue to maintain Maternal Mortality Daily throughout my fellowship in India—in fact, I have  exciting plans for adding new features to the blog over the next few months so stay tuned!

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