With support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Earth Institute, Columbia University has launched a new pilot project aimed at decreasing maternal deaths by evaluating the feasibility, accessibility and acceptability of a package of proven interventions for postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) in the Millennium Village in Bonsaaso, Ghana. As a supplement to a larger grant from the MacArthur Foundation to address sexual and reproductive health and maternal mortality in rural Africa, this additional funding allows for PPH intervention training and tools for healthcare workers and the dissemination of results from the pilot to inform maternal health policy in Ghana and across Africa.
“With so many women in the developing world dying in pregnancy or childbirth we are grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for supporting this life-saving project,” said Deputy Director of Health for the Millennium Villages Project at the Earth Institute Unni Karunakara. “By training birth attendants, midwives and other health workers in safe delivery practices and providing them with essential tools, mothers in the village of Bonsaaso will have access to interventions thought critical for prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage during pregnancy, delivery and in those critical hours after birth,” said Dr. Stacie Geller, G. William Arends Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, at the University of Illinois, Chicago – a partner in this project. If the pilot is proven successful, the goal is to replicate the approach in the other Millennium Villages to demonstrate widespread viability of the techniques and work with Ghana and other African governments to scale up the interventions.
“Reducing maternal deaths and advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in rural Africa is at the core of our foundation’s goals,” said Milena Novy-Marx, Program Officer at the MacArthur Foundation. “Too many women are dying due to pregnancy and childbirth in developing nations – we want women to have safer pregnancies and deliveries and are proud to support this pilot in Ghana as a way to test ground-breaking technologies and strategies that can be adopted around the globe.”
During the next two years within the 30 communities of the Bonsaaso Millennium Village cluster the project team in collaboration with Dr. Stacie Geller will work to address the medical, social and systemic factors that contribute to maternal mortality. Training will include the use of Misoprostol, an uterotonic agent that has proven to prevent PPH, and a blood collection drape to identify excessive blood loss before and during transport to medical facilities. If successful, women who give birth at home will have access to life-saving techniques, and the results will inform and promote government policy in Ghana and elsewhere to adopt the techniques and tools at scale.
The World Health Organization estimates that 536,000 women died in pregnancy or childbirth in 2005 and 99 percent of these deaths occurred in the developing world. These statistics have remained consistent since 1990. To end this disparity, the fifth Millennium Development Goal aims to improve maternal health and targets reducing maternal mortality rates by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015. “The solution to high maternal mortality rates not only lies in the hands of a country’s health system, but is also dependent upon women’s educational status, accessibility to good care, legal systems and social barriers,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute. “We are thrilled to be working with the MacArthur Foundation and continue to be impressed by their leadership.”