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Population Council Research Featured at First Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference, 18–21 October in Mexico City

Council Studies Advance Global Efforts to Keep Women and Children Healthy and Safe

Population Council researchers will present the latest data on access to life-saving innovations and drugs that reduce preventable maternal and newborn deaths, barriers to facility-based childbirth, and the validity of self-reporting maternal and newborn health care indicators at the premiere Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference, 18–21 October in Mexico City.

Convened by the Mexican Secretariat of Health and partners including USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNFPA, UNICEF, and others, the conference advances technical knowledge and showcases innovative solutions to improving maternal and newborn health within the post-2015 development framework. Attendees, including technical implementers, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners, come from more than 50 countries. 

“We are proud to present Population Council studies at this important global gathering of maternal and newborn health experts,” said John Townsend, PhD, vice president and director of the Population Council’s Reproductive Health program. “In a post-2015 era, it is essential to use every opportunity to emphasize the importance of women’s and children’s health to ensure safe and sustainable communities worldwide. The research presented here will give health authorities, policymakers, and funders important information that can guide efforts to keep women’s and children’s health at the top of the development agenda.”

Highlights of Population Council research presented at the conference include:

  • Disrespect and abuse: Do poor Kenyan women suffer more?
    Wednesday, 21 October | 11:00 am–12:30 pm | Don Diego 4
    Charlotte Warren, Population Council

While financial barriers have long been recognized as a deterrent to women seeking facility-based childbirth, fear of disrespect and abuse (D&A) also influences their decisions on where to give birth and reduces their uptake of maternity services.

The Population Council’s Heshima project sought to understand both the prevalence of D&A and the interventions that might mitigate it in 13 health facilities and surrounding communities in Kenya. The study found that 1 in 5 postpartum women reported feeling disrespected or humiliated during labor and/or delivery, with the poorest women reporting those experiences most frequently. The study highlights D&A as a significant barrier to facility-based childbirth, and raises important issues to address, like the impact of socio-economic status, in efforts to increase coverage of health facility-based maternity services.

In addition, the Population Council’s Charity Ndwiga will present in the Marketplace of Ideas on a Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) resource package developed to mitigate drivers of D&A during childbirth in Kenya. The resource package includes workshop guides, tools, and other resources intended to engage various stakeholders within the health system. During this session, Ndwiga will demonstrate the resource package’s components, including activities to highlight the importance of engaging participants in a dialogue that examines their knowledge, attitudes, and access to rights-based health care. The Marketplace of Ideas will take place on Tuesday, 20 October, 3:00–5:00 pm, in Don Diego 4.

  • Overcoming bottlenecks and joining the dots to improve access to quality magnesium sulfate for treatment of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in Nigeria
    Tuesday, 20 October | 11:00 am–12:30 pm | Don Diego 3
    Salisu Ishaku, Population Council

Each day, about 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The second most common cause is pre-eclampsia—the rapid rise of blood pressure during pregnancy—which, if untreated, can lead to seizures (eclampsia), kidney and liver damage, and death. Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) is a critically important drug for treating pre-eclampsia and preventing eclampsia, which causes around 40 percent of maternal deaths in some Nigerian states. Although available in Nigeria for many years, supply bottlenecks and lack of information limit the uptake of this essential drug. This study identified sources of supply bottlenecks and assessed efforts to reduce them through policy development and promotion and commodity procurement and distribution. The research identified some key findings in the reduction of bottlenecks, including the inclusion of MgSO4 on the state’s essential medicines list and successful implementation of training programs for primary health care providers to administer the medication.

In addition, the Ending Eclampsia project is building a global coalition to reduce maternal mortality due to pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. The inaugural meeting of the global coalition will take place at the GMNHC in Mexico City on Wednesday, 21 October, 5:30–7:00 pm, in the Dona Socorro room on the second floor of the conference venue, the Hilton Reforma. To learn more about the Ending Eclampsia project, there will also be an informational meeting on Monday, 19 October, 7:00–8:20 am, in the Don Genaro room.

  • Assessing the validity of intervention coverage indicators for maternal and newborn health care in Kenya
    Wednesday, 21 October | 1:30–3:00 pm | Don Diego 1
    Ann Blanc, Population Council

In the absence of high-quality health system statistics, tracking the coverage of lifesaving maternal and newborn health interventions often relies on reports from surveys of women. Despite widespread use, most indicators proposed as measures of maternal and newborn intervention coverage have not been validated. This study assessed the ability of women delivering in two Kenyan hospitals to recall key interventions received during the intrapartum and early postpartum period at two time points: at discharge and 14 months following hospital delivery. Of the 606 women who participated at baseline, 515 were re-interviewed.  The findings indicate that women are able to report accurately on some aspects of care suggesting that there is no significant deterioration in reporting accuracy over time.

About the Population Council

The Population Council confronts critical health and development issues—from stopping the spread of HIV to improving reproductive health and ensuring that young people lead full and productive lives. Through biomedical, social science, and public health research in 50 countries, we work with our partners to deliver solutions that lead to more effective policies, programs, and technologies that improve lives around the world. Established in 1952 and headquartered in New York, the Council is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization governed by an international board of trustees.

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