A five-year programme that mobilised communities to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns reduced newborn mortality by 30 percent and saved at least 1,000 newborn lives in rural Malawi.
The study, carried out in three rural districts in Malawi with a combined population of more than two million, was designed to test whether a combined effort to increase both community awareness and strategies for perinatal care and to improve the quality of healthcare would be more effective than either one alone.
The study showed that the combination worked best.
"The result supports intuition, but it was important to demonstrate it scientifically," says Pierre Barker, M.D., a Senior Vice President of the US-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the lead partner in the programme.
Results of the trial are published in International Health and in the Health Foundation's "Improving maternal and newborn health in Malawi" report to Malawi health officials.
The programme is funded by The Health Foundation, working with a consortium of partners from both the UK and the US. These partners provided technical support for both community and quality improvement work.
The Health Foundation supported the programme for a five-year period to obtain meaningful results. After discussions with the Malawi Ministry of Health, the Foundation agreed to focus the work in three poor rural districts to align with the Road Map for the accelerated reduction of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in Malawi.
A local non-governmental organisation was created and its staff trained to carry out the trial. The new organisation, known as MaiKhanda, which means "mother-baby" in local Chichewa, identified problem areas and worked out solutions to improve maternal and newborn care at both community and health facility level with the support of the consortium partners. This process became known as the "MaiKhanda ap
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