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'It takes a village' -- Community-based methods for improving maternal and newborn health

A series of studies are published in a special supplement that presents results of the Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnershipa three-year pilot program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the goal of improving the health of Ethiopian mothers and their newborns. This special issue of the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health is published by Wiley on behalf of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

High mortality rates for pregnant women and newborns continue to be a major health concern in Africa, with Ethiopia being one of the most affected countries. Maternal mortality rates in Ethiopia are more than 650 deaths per 100,000 live births compared with 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States. Among the annual 2.7 million pregnancies in Ethiopia, as many as 18,000 mothers die each year.

Furthermore, prior evidence shows that death among newborns in Ethiopia within the first month of life (neonatal mortality) has had only a moderate decline from 49 to 39 to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000, 2005, and 2011, respectively. "While Ethiopia has reduced under-5 mortality by two-thirds, deaths among newborns within the first month of life still accounts for 63% of all infant deaths and 42% of deaths under age 5," says Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, Frances E. Likis, DrPH, NP, CNM, FACNM, FAAN.

"Nurses, midwives and community-level health providers working together with women, families and community leaders have an opportunity to help save the lives of mothers and babies," explains Lynn Sibley, PhD, RN, CNM, FACNM, FAAN, Professor at Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health, and Principal Investigator of the Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership. "This special issue provides practitioners with insight into the community-based efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Ethiopia."

The supplement includes 11 articles that document the results of the Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership. This initiative strives to improve health care for mothers and newborns in rural Ethiopia by:

  1. improving the capacity and performance of frontline health workers;
  2. increasing demand for focused maternal and newborn health care, and improving self-care behaviors; and
  3. developing the effectiveness of lead districts to improve health care and services for women and their newborns.

"This collection of articles enhances our knowledge of maternal and child survival in poor, rural communities in developing countries," concludes Dr. Sibley. "Many countries will benefit from understanding how to reduce mortality in mothers and their newborns through community-based interventions."


Contact: Dawn Peters

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