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Medics for Mothers

By Christine Grillo

In eastern Burma, where ethnic minorities have been forced from their homes by the thousands, antenatal care is elusive and childbirth is a gamble. But one community-based strategy has created a 10-fold increase in the proportion of women who receive skilled care before, during and after labor. The effort is called the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project.

The project, composed of local care providers, trains workers in antenatal, postnatal and emergency obstetric care (hemorrhage, blood transfusion and more). The project also trains birth attendants and offers family planning services.

Luke Mullany, associate professor in International Health, with colleagues from the Global Health Access Program and ethnic health organizations, led a study that spanned 28 months and surveyed more than 5,000 women in eastern Burma, before and after the MOM Project. In addition to finding the10-fold increase in the proportion of women assisted at birth by skilled providers, researchers documented substantial improvement in the percentage of women who received antenatal care (40 percent before MOM, and 72 percent since), a doubling of postnatal visits, and a near-doubling of contraceptive use, according to the study published in PLoS Medicine in August. “The MOM Project’s focus on task-shifting, capacity and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach in severely constrained areas,” says Mullany, PhD ’05, MHS ’02.