Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Innovative Ways To Deal With Maternal And Infant Mortality

Two of the most important issues in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are maternal and infant mortality. More than 350,000 women still die each year around the world from complications of childbirth, and 3 million children die in the first month of life which makes these issues a grave one. A new report from the U.N.'s Every Woman, Every Child Innovation Working Group presents some of the most capable and innovative projects that could help tackle these problems. The report sheds light on five interesting projects in developing region that other countries could use as models in fighting against high maternal and infant mortality.

Project: ColaLife, Zambia

The first one is Project ColaLife of Zambia which is a time and space saving project dealing with health supplies. ColaLife takes advantage of Coca-Cola's extensive supply chain to provide isolated communities in rural areas of developing countries with essential medical supplies. The medical supply kit filled with basic health supplies can fit into any unused crate space of Coca-Cola and are delivered to local contacts when beverage supplies are distributed. ColaLife is currently working on an anti-diarrheal kit that would carry rehydration salts, soap, water treatment tools and educational materials as Diarrhea, a preventable and treatable disease is one of the leading causes of death for children under five in the developing world.

Project: HERproject, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Pakistan and Vietnam

HERproject (Health Enables Returns) trains female employees at their workplace to teach their peers about reproductive health, nutrition, infectious disease and other health issues. The project operates in more than 70 factories manufacturing everything from Levis to Microsoft in above mentioned seven countries. The project also connects women to health services, either by improving in-factory clinics or directing women to outside government services.

Project: Cell-Life, South Africa

This project takes advantage of cell-phone technology and provides assistance to HIV-AIDS programs. In South Africa, 40% of children under five still die from AIDS-related diseases, partially because many mothers do not complete the mother-to-child prevention programs by taking the medication correctly. Cell-Life developed a 10-week program of text message reminders designed to help mothers remember when to attend appointments, and give medication. The program also tells the mothers how to safely feed their babies. The result of the trial so far suggests that mothers using the SMS program are more likely to get their babies tested for HIV.

Project: LifeSpring, India

This program works in low-income families in India who cannot afford regular maternal and child healthcare. LifeSpring developed a chain of hospitals for women who earn about between $3 to $6 per day. The facilities provide an all-inclusive maternal care package for about half or one-third what other private facilities might offer. The program breaks down complex processes into different tasks so that less-skilled professionals can perform some of the responsibilities.

Project: SMS for Life, Tanzania

SMS for Life is an innovative approach for dealing with shortage of medical supplies. A partnership between several private groups, including Novartis and the ministry of health in Tanzania designed the SMS for Life system in an attempt to end stock-outs. When a clinic in Sub-Saharan Africa runs out of malaria medication, it becomes a life-and-death issue for patients. It has been reported that SMS messages on stock levels, along with a data system used to map distribution helped reduce the proportion of health facilities reporting malaria medication shortages from 78% to 26% in just 21 weeks.

These are some innovative ways to deal with the maternal and infant mortality problems. Let’s hope that all countries dealing with these problems copy these models in their respective countries and achieve better results in future.

-Nisha Noor