Studies have shown that the first week after birth is the most dangerous for mother and baby and in Uganda, less than 50% of new mothers have access to postpartum care services. In general barriers to care include:
- Negative perceptions on seeking care outside of the home and the extended family
- Limited or lack of access to care facilities
- Lack of awareness or education on postpartum care, hygiene and danger signs
To fight maternal and infant mortality in this critical period, Shanti Uganda has launched a new project funded by Grand Challenges Canada called Propelling Motherhood. Propelling Motherhood aims to visit at least 480 postpartum women and babies and provide 1,920 home visits all to create a proven model that can be replicated in other districts of Uganda and around the world.
The program trains 20 local Village Health Team Workers (VHTs) to conduct home postpartum visits for women who birth at both the Shanti Uganda Birth House and Kasana Health Centre IV, the closest government hospital. Visits take place 24 hours, 48 hours, 7 days and 21 days postpartum with VHTs providing education and support to mothers in their own homes. VHTs are also trained to identify warning signs and refer mothers back to the hospital if they require additional care.
As many women live far distances from health facilities, 10 boda boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers are on call to take VHTs to visits as well as transport moms and babies should they require additional care. By recruiting existing community health care workers, we ensure personalized home care services that transcend perceptions around seeking care outside the family circles and provide access to care, while working within the existing cultural structures. By providing transportation by boda, we ensure safe transport to care facilities that may have otherwise been out of reach.
A unique part of our project is the integration of mobile health technology. Our VHTs have been trained to use smartphones which keep track of the data gathered at each visit. By collecting this information we can track common trends in health needs of the community and monitor project impact.
Official service delivery began in August when the VHTs and boda boda drivers began their first outreach visits to women and newborns. To date, the VHTs have visited 102 mothers and completed 370 visits. During the 370 visits, 42 lives were saved or improved when VHTs identified health concerns during their visits. Feedback from the community has been positive, with VHT Margaret explaining, “The mothers are happy because they like to stay in their own homes after giving birth. Sometimes it is hard for them to travel back to the hospital, but it is easy for them to get the home visit. The community is very excited about the project, they see we are valuing mothers, they see we are saving mothers lives.”
After the completion of the project in May 2018, Shanti Uganda aims to scale the postpartum home visits, and implement the project on a larger scale if funding and resources are available.
Propelling Motherhood represents just one piece of Shanti Uganda’s efforts to empower local female leaders and provide high-quality healthcare to the most vulnerable populations.
More information about: Grand Challenges Canada
More information about: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy