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Posts Tagged ‘newborn health’

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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On Monday, I traveled with my colleague, Anupam Sarkar, a nutrition and newborn health expert and Project Advisor for the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI), to Hudu, a small, hard-to-reach village amidst forest, steel plants, and roaming wild elephants. It took us nearly 2 hours from Jamshedpur, weaving around and cutting through steel plants and villages along bumpy and muddy roads–the same roads that pregnant women must travel on if they opt for institutional delivery. We were heading to Hudu to observe a Seraikela Chhau peformance.

Seraikela Chhau is a traditional form of dance that originates in the Seraikela block of Jharkhand, part of the eastern steel belt of India. Over the past six months, I have been working as a Clinton Fellow with the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative in the Seraikela block. MANSI is a partnership between the American India Foundation, Tata Steel Rural Development Society, and the local government—with technical support from SEARCH. As part of our project activities, our team has recently coordinated a series of Seraikela Chhau performances that will combine the native dance form with key maternal and newborn health messages throughout the 174 villages of our project area.

When Anupam and I arrived in Hudu, we learned that a pair of twins had recently passed away in the village and we decided to visit the family before the performance began. We are conducting similar home visits for every maternal and newborn death that has been reported in our project area (spanning 174 villages) since the baseline survey was completed in 2009. The goal of the home visits is to gain a better understanding of the ground realities and knowledge gaps so that we can shape and inform the messages of the MANSI health communication campaigns in a way that meets the needs of the communities.

The local health worker guided us to the home where the twins had passed away. The parents were not at home–but we were able to meet with the paternal grandparents, Asha and Ganesh Sardar.

 

They shared their story…

The mother of the twins, Vilasi, is 28 years old. She and her husband, Ragdu, already had four children, all girls, and the family was  eager to have a boy. Soon they became pregnant with twins, one girl and one boy. All four of the previous children were delivered at home without complication–and the family assumed that this delivery would also be free of complications. They explained that they were unaware of the benefits of institutional delivery. When the twins were born, they seemed very small. Immediately following delivery, the mother put the babies to her breasts to feed them. They were weak and unable to suckle. Initially the family thought about giving them goat’s milk–but eventually decided to give sugar water (locally called Misri Pani). When it became clear that the babies were extremely weak and in critical condition, the family wanted to take the infants to the hospital but they had not anticipated the emergency. They were not prepared. They did not have a transportation plan or money set aside. One baby died the very same day–and the other died the following day.

We thanked the grandparents for sharing their story and asked them if it would be OK if we also shared their story with other communities. The grandparents agreed and the grandfather said, “After losing the twins, I have come to know about the importance of institutional delivery. Why not share our story and let others also come to know?”

It is tough to know precisely what led to the death of the twins—and if giving birth in a facility would have made a difference. But it is clear that many factors were stacked against them. The family was faced with poor roads, long distances to health centers, limited resources, combined with a lack of information at the community level about birth spacing and planning, care of low birth weight babies, danger signs, institutional delivery, and information on how to tap into government schemes that offer cash incentives for institutional delivery—all potential topics for future Chhau performances.

With the story of the twins on our minds, we returned to the center of the village to observe the performance.

With no electricity in the village, the performers rigged their loud speaker system to their vehicle battery. They began beating their drums and singing loudly, calling on community members to gather in the village center.

It did not take long for community members to gather, all curious to know what the commotion was about. They formed a crowd of boys and girls, and men and women of all ages. Soon the drumming and singing picked up pace, a performer dressed in a traditional colorful costume with a big mask jumped out from behind the vehicle, and the show began!

The performers acted out various situations, using dance and drama to cover several critical maternal and newborn health topics—with a focus on the importance of institutional delivery, birth planning/preparedness, and the five cleans of safe delivery. The audience watched with great enthusiasm.

As we traveled the bumpy roads away from Hudu, a jagged rock punctured our tire–delaying our return to Jamshedpur and reminding me of the numerous barriers that women face in accessing care. While we waited for the tire to get repaired, I thought of the twins and the grandparents who we interviewed. I also thought of the Chhau dance and all of the community members in attendance. That day, I witnessed the consequences of the various factors that were stacked against the twins. I also witnessed one strategy for building community awareness of critical maternal and newborn health information. I left feeling confident that the Chhau performance that we observed will help to equip the community of Hudu with key information about maternal and newborn health—and will serve as one of many important steps toward the overall goal of protecting the health of women and infants in the Seraikela block.

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On November 15th, Maternova, an organization that conducts continuous research into the latest innovations impacting maternal and newborn health, featured the “paperless partogram” on their blog. The blog post explains that for the past thirty years, the partogram has been the recommended practice for preventing prolonged labor in low-resource settings–but it seems that not all health workers find it to be an appropriate tool for the contexts in which they work.

Maternova

“…The partograph is a low-cost tool for saving the lives of mothers and babies. But does that mean it is an appropriate tool? Dr. A. K. Debdas of India would say no. Even after the WHO simplified the partograph model to make it more user-friendly in 2000, the partograph is still rarely used in low-resource areas, and, when actually used, it is rarely interpreted correctly (2). Debdas argues that the WHO’s partograph fails to meet the organization’s own requirements for appropriate technology: the partograph has not been adapted to local needs, is not acceptable to those who use it, and cannot be used given the available resources. Debdas believes the partograph is simply too time-consuming for overburdened clinicians and too complicated for many skilled birth attendants—many of whom have not received higher education.

Dr. Debdas proposes a new, low-skill method for preventing prolonged labor—the paperless partogram. It takes 20 seconds, requires only basic addition and the reading of a clock or watch, and holds potential for more effectively mobilizing clinicians to prevent prolonged labor. Appropriate on all counts…”

Click here to read the full post on the Maternova blog and learn how the “paperless partogram” works!

And while you are on the Maternova site, be sure to check out the Health Innovations page. I found the “Baby Bubbles” and the “Salad Spinner Centrifuge for Anemia” particularly interesting…

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On Wednesday, September 29th, nearly 300 community health workers from 174 villages in the rural Seraikela block of Jharkhand, India came together for an interesting event that involved plenty of art supplies, a flurry of creative ideas, a tangible passion for and dedication to improving rural maternal and newborn health, and a little bit of healthy competition.

The gathering, part of the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI), was an effort to develop effective behavior change communication tools for four maternal health interventions being implemented through MANSI– by tapping into the vast knowledge, experiences, and creative capacity of the newly identified community health workers.

Holding the belief that there is no better source of ideas for effective slogans and images than the community itself, MANSI staff coordinated a contest that called on community health workers to develop slogans and images to explain the importance of the MANSI health interventions. The thinking behind the contest was that if the artistic representations of the health interventions and the key messages come from within the communities, then the images and messages will be more likely to resonate with the community members—and ultimately the health practices will be more likely to be widely understood and adopted.

Before the contest began, the MANSI team provided an overview of the four maternal health interventions that the health workers would be developing images and slogans for: Misoprostol for post-partum hemorrhage, intermittent preventive treatment for Malaria, Vitamin A supplementation, and deworming. (In-depth training on these interventions will take place in the coming months.) Craft supplies were distributed and the nearly 300 health workers spent one hour competing to develop the most creative, compelling, and scientifically accurate slogans and images to be used as behavior change communication tools throughout the MANSI project.

A panel of judges made up of doctors, public health professionals, and government officials recently selected three winning submissions for each health intervention. The winners received prizes and their slogans and images are being incorporated into the final behavior change communication strategy for the MANSI project.

Check back soon for a short video about the the winning submissions!

To learn about another initiative that is tapping into creative energy to improve maternal health, visit MDGfive.com. MDGfive.com is a global project that is uniting artists around the world to use their collective artistic abilities to develop multimedia maternal health advocacy pieces.

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I am back to blogging after a few weeks break to get settled in India!

I arrived in Jharkhand, India  just over a month ago. I am here as a William J. Clinton Fellow with the American India Foundation. I transitioned out of my previous role at the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth just after the Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi. (Click here to view archived videos of the conference sessions.)  I was craving on-the-ground experience in program implementation and I was looking forward to working at the community level—to put to action the knowledge I gained during my time at the MHTF as well as the program planning skills I learned while completing my MPH in International Health at Boston University.

Mother and Baby, Jharkhand, India--Photo by Kate Mitchell

The people of India face some of the highest levels of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in the world.  Jharkhand, a newly formed state in India, faces higher maternal and newborn mortality ratios than India as a whole. And the villages of the Seraikela block, a region of Jharkhand with difficult geographic terrain and low levels of literacy, experience even higher ratios than the state.

My fellowship placement has already offered me some remarkable experiences (I’ll be writing about those experiences in upcoming posts)–and mentors who are working together to improve maternal and newborn health in Seraikela from a number of different angles and organizations.

My assignment is with a new public-private partnership that aims to improve maternal and newborn health in Seraikela at the community and facility level. (Click here to read about recent conversations at the Global Maternal Health Conference focused around striking the right balance between community and facility based interventions.)  MANSI, the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative, is being implemented by Tata Steel Rural Development Society, a division of Tata Steel’s corporate social responsibility wing, and the American India Foundation in partnership with the local government. (Click here for a recent post by Alanna Shaikh on corporate players getting involved in global health.) 



MANSI is a replication of the Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) project that was originally (and very successfully) implemented by SEARCH in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, India. The MANSI team is working closely with SEARCH to train community health workers from 174 villages within the Seraikela block on the HBNC curriculum, a set of modules that prepares community health workers to address the leading causes of newborn mortality and morbidity in India.  The team will also be training the health workers on a number of interventions that will target the health of the mother–as well as upgrading several sub-centers within the Seraikela block to be equipped to handle normal deliveries and improving referral systems for complicated deliveries.

Mother and Infant Wait to be Seen at a MNCH Clinic Under A Banyan Tree, Jharkhand, India---Photo by Kate Mitchell

Much of what I will be doing over the next ten months is helping to develop training modules for the maternal health interventions that will be added onto the HBNC model–as well as helping to conduct the training. 

I am really excited to be a part of the MANSI team.  It is going to be an exciting and challenging ten months–and I promise to keep you posted:)

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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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A recent study in the Lancet took a close look at a conditional cash transfer scheme to entice women to deliver in health facilities. The scheme, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), aims to reduce maternal, perinatal, and neonatal mortality.

Published along side the study was a commentary by Vinod K. Paul that summarizes several of the key findings of the study–pointing out successes and challenges with the scheme.

“…In just 4 years, its beneficiaries multiplied 11-fold, from 0·74 million in 2005—06 to 8·43 million in 2008—09 (thus covering nearly a third of the 26 million women who deliver in the country annually). Budgetary allocation for the JSY increased from a mere US$8·5 million to $275 million in the same period. Surely, it is time to ask the question about what health outcomes are achieved by this massive and expensive investment and effort. On the face of it, by promoting a strategy of deliveries in the facilities, attended by skilled providers, JSY should lead to a reduction of maternal, perinatal, and neonatal mortality…”

Click here to read the full commentary. You will need to register (free) with the Lancet to access this article.

Excerpt from a Washington Post story on the study:

“…The payment program seems to be working, according to Indian health workers and researchers who conducted the study for the Lancet.

‘The cash payments mean that India is really starting to invest in women. That trickles out to the rest of the family and the rest of society,’ said Marie-Claire Mutanda, a health specialist with UNICEF, which is supporting the program.

In two of the poorest states in India — Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — the number of women giving birth in medical facilities soared from less than 20 percent in 2005 to nearly 50 percent in 2008, according to the most recent data available.

Doctors here attribute that to the payment program, whose Hindi name translates to ‘women protection scheme’…”

Click here to read the full story in the Washington Post.

Click here to read the study, India’s Janani Suraksha Yojana, a conditional cash transfer programme to increase births in health facilities: an impact evaluation, in the Lancet. You will need to register (free) with the Lancet to access this article.

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