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1.  Are community midwives addressing the inequities in access to skilled birth attendance in Punjab, Pakistan? Gender, class and social exclusion 
Background
Pakistan is one of the six countries estimated to contribute to over half of all maternal deaths worldwide. To address its high maternal mortality rate, in particular the inequities in access to maternal health care services, the government of Pakistan created a new cadre of community-based midwives (CMW). A key expectation is that the CMWs will improve access to skilled antenatal and intra-partum care for the poor and disadvantaged women. A critical gap in our knowledge is whether this cadre of workers, operating in the private health care context, will meet the expectation to provide care to the poorest and most marginalized women. There is an inherent paradox between the notions of fee-for-service and increasing access to health care for the poorest who, by definition, are unable to pay.
Methods/Design
Data will be collected in three interlinked modules. Module 1 will consist of a population-based survey in the catchment areas of the CMW’s in districts Jhelum and Layyah in Punjab. Proportions of socially excluded women who are served by CMWs and their satisfaction levels with their maternity care provider will be assessed. Module 2 will explore, using an institutional ethnographic approach, the challenges (organizational, social, financial) that CMWs face in providing care to the poor and socially marginalized women. Module 3 will identify the social, financial, geographical and other barriers to uncover the hidden forces and power relations that shape the choices and opportunities of poor and marginalized women in accessing CMW services. An extensive knowledge dissemination plan will facilitate uptake of research findings to inform positive developments in maternal health policy, service design and care delivery in Pakistan.
Discussion
The findings of this study will enhance understanding of the power dynamics of gender and class that may underlie poor women’s marginalization from health care systems, including community midwifery care. One key outcome will be an increased sensitization of the special needs of socially excluded women, an otherwise invisible group. Another expectation is that the poor, socially excluded women will be targeted for provision of maternity care. The research will support the achievement of the 5th Millennium Development Goal in Pakistan.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-326
PMCID: PMC3507667  PMID: 22992347
Pregnancy and childbirth; Pakistan; Maternal health care; Skilled birth attendance; Community-based Midwives; Social exclusion; Inequity; Poverty; Gender; Class
2.  Why Do Women Not Use Antenatal Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001373.
In a synthesis of 21 qualitative studies representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries, Kenneth Finlayson and Soo Downe examine the reasons why many women in low- and middle-income countries do not receive adequate antenatal care.
Background
Almost 50% of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) don't receive adequate antenatal care. Women's views can offer important insights into this problem. Qualitative studies exploring inadequate use of antenatal services have been undertaken in a range of countries, but the findings are not easily transferable. We aimed to inform the development of future antenatal care programmes through a synthesis of findings in all relevant qualitative studies.
Methods and Findings
Using a predetermined search strategy, we identified robust qualitative studies reporting on the views and experiences of women in LMICs who received inadequate antenatal care. We used meta-ethnographic techniques to generate themes and a line-of-argument synthesis. We derived policy-relevant hypotheses from the findings. We included 21 papers representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries. Three key themes were identified: “pregnancy as socially risky and physiologically healthy”, “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty”, and “not getting it right the first time”. The line-of-argument synthesis describes a dissonance between programme design and cultural contexts that may restrict access and discourage return visits. We hypothesize that centralised, risk-focused antenatal care programmes may be at odds with the resources, beliefs, and experiences of pregnant women who underuse antenatal services.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between current antenatal care provision and the social and cultural context of some women in LMICs. Antenatal care provision that is theoretically and contextually at odds with local contextual beliefs and experiences is likely to be underused, especially when attendance generates increased personal risks of lost family resources or physical danger during travel, when the promised care is not delivered because of resource constraints, and when women experience covert or overt abuse in care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Although maternal deaths worldwide have almost halved since 1990, according to the latest figures, every day roughly 800 women and adolescent girls still die from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth: in 2010, 287,000 women died during or following pregnancy and childbirth, with almost all of these deaths (99%) occurring in low-resource settings. Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the interventions to prevent or manage the most common complications (severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion) are well known. Furthermore, many of these complications can be prevented, detected, or treated during antenatal care visits with trained health workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of four antenatal visits per pregnancy, but according to WHO figures, between 2005 and 2010 only 53% of pregnant women worldwide attended the recommended four antenatal visits; in low-income countries, this figure was a disappointing 36%. Unfortunately, despite huge international efforts to promote and provide antenatal care, there has been little improvement in these statistics over the past decade. It is therefore important to investigate the reasons for poor antenatal attendance and to seek the views of users of antenatal care. In this study, the researchers combined studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that included women's views on antenatal care in a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies (qualitative research uses techniques, such as structured interviews, to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour, and a meta-synthesis combines and interprets information across studies, contexts, and populations).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched several medical, sociological, and psychological databases to find appropriate qualitative studies published between January 1980 and February 2012 that explored the antenatal care experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of women from LMICs who had chosen to access antenatal care late (after 12 weeks' gestation), infrequently (less than four times), or not at all. The researchers included 21 studies (out of the 2,997 initially identified) in their synthesis, representing the views of 1,239 women from 15 countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda) who were either interviewed directly or gave their opinion as part of a focus group.
The researchers identified three main themes. The first theme reflects women's views that pregnancy is a healthy state and so saw little reason to visit health professionals when they perceived no risk to their well-being—the researchers called this theme, “pregnancy as socially contingent and physiologically healthy.” The second theme relates to women's limited financial resources, so that even when antenatal care was offered free of charge, the cost of transport to get there, the loss of earnings associated with the visit, and the possibility of having to pay for medicines meant that women were unable to attend—the researchers called this theme “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty.” The third theme the researchers identified related to women's views that the antenatal services were inadequate and that the benefits of attending did not outweigh any potential harms. For example, pregnant women who initially recognized the benefits of antenatal care were often disappointed by the lack of resources they found when they got there and, consequently, decided not to return. The researchers called this theme “not getting it right the first time.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between the principles that underpin the provision of antenatal care and the beliefs and socio-economic contexts of pregnant women in LMICs, meaning that even high-quality antenatal care may not be used by some pregnant women unless their views and concerns are addressed. The themes identified in this meta-synthesis could provide the basis for a new approach to the design and delivery of antenatal care that takes local beliefs and values and resource availability into account. Such programs might help ensure that antenatal care meets pregnant women's expectations and treats them appropriately so that they want to regularly attend antenatal care.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373.
Wikipedia describes antenatal care (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization has a wealth of information relating to pregnancy, including antenatal care
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has evidence-based guidelines on antenatal care
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has a series of web pages and links relating to respectful maternity care in LMICs
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics is an international organization with connections to various maternity initiatives in LMICs
International Confederation of Midwives has details of the Millennium Development Goals relating to maternity care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373
PMCID: PMC3551970  PMID: 23349622
3.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
4.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Introduction
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Conclusions
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
5.  The Effectiveness of Emergency Obstetric Referral Interventions in Developing Country Settings: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001264.
In a systematic review of the literature, Julia Hussein and colleagues seek to determine the effect of referral interventions that enable emergency access to health facilities for pregnant women living in developing countries.
Background
Pregnancy complications can be unpredictable and many women in developing countries cannot access health facilities where life-saving care is available. This study assesses the effects of referral interventions that enable pregnant women to reach health facilities during an emergency, after the decision to seek care is made.
Methods and findings
Selected bibliographic databases were searched with no date or language restrictions. Randomised controlled trials and quasi experimental study designs with a comparison group were included. Outcomes of interest included maternal and neonatal mortality and other intermediate measures such as service utilisation. Two reviewers independently selected, appraised, and extracted articles using predefined fields. Forest plots, tables, and qualitative summaries of study quality, size, and direction of effect were used for analysis.
Nineteen studies were included. In South Asian settings, four studies of organisational interventions in communities that generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths, with the largest effect seen in India (odds ratio 0·48 95% CI 0·34–0·68). Three quasi experimental studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported reductions in stillbirths with maternity waiting home interventions, with one statistically significant result (OR 0.56 95% CI 0.32–0.96). Effects of interventions on maternal mortality were unclear. Referral interventions usually improved utilisation of health services but the opposite effect was also documented. The effects of multiple interventions in the studies could not be disentangled. Explanatory mechanisms through which the interventions worked could not be ascertained.
Conclusions
Community mobilisation interventions may reduce neonatal mortality but the contribution of referral components cannot be ascertained. The reduction in stillbirth rates resulting from maternity waiting homes needs further study. Referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. To inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, improved monitoring and evaluation practices are necessary, along with studies that develop better understanding of how interventions work.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all of these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 and a woman's life-time risk of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39. By contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12 and women have a life-time risk of maternal death of 1 in 4,700. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, all of which are preventable or treatable conditions. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which women will develop pregnancy complications, many complications rapidly become life-threatening and, in developing countries, women often deliver at home, far from emergency obstetric services; obstetrics deals with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce maternal deaths (and the deaths of babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and early life) in developing countries by ensuring that pregnant women are referred to emergency obstetric services quickly when the need arises. Unfortunately, in such countries referral to emergency obstetric care is beset with problems such as difficult geographical terrain, transport costs, lack of vehicles, and suboptimal location and distribution of health care facilities. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce the “phase II delay” in referral to emergency obstetric care in developing countries—the time it takes a woman to reach an appropriate health care facility once a problem has been recognized and the decision has been taken to seek care. Delays in diagnosis and the decision to seek care are phase I delays in referral, whereas delays in receiving care once a women reaches a health care facility are phase III delays.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 published studies that described 14 interventions designed to overcome phase II delays in emergency obstetric referral and that met their criteria for inclusion in their systematic review. About half of the interventions were organizational. That is, they were designed to overcome barriers to referral such as costs. Most of the remaining interventions were structural. That is, they involved the provision of, for example, ambulances and maternity waiting homes—placed close to a health care facility where women can stay during late pregnancy. Although seven studies provided data on maternal mortality, none showed a sustained, statistically significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in maternal deaths. Four studies in South Asia in which communities generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths (deaths of babies soon after birth), but the only statistically significant effect of this community mobilization intervention was seen in India where neonatal deaths were halved. Three studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported that the introduction of maternity waiting homes reduced stillbirths but this reduction was only significant in one study. Finally, although referral interventions generally improved the utilization of health services, in one study the provision of bicycle ambulances to take women to the hospital reduced the proportion of women delivering in health facilities, probably because women felt that bicycle ambulances drew unwanted attention to them during labor and so preferred to stay at home.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that community mobilization interventions may reduce neonatal mortality and that maternity waiting rooms may reduce stillbirths. Importantly, they also highlight how referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. However, because the studies included in this systematic review included multiple interventions designed to reduce delays at several stages of the referral process, it is not possible to disentangle the contribution of each component of the intervention. Moreover, it is impossible at present to determine why (or even if) any of the interventions reduced maternal mortality. Thus, the researchers conclude, improved monitoring of interventions and better evaluation of outcomes is essential to inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, and more studies are needed to improve understanding of how referral interventions work.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF./UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about loss in childbirth; the non-governmental health development organization AMREF provides personal stories about maternal health in Africa
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264
PMCID: PMC3393680  PMID: 22807658
6.  An Autopsy Study of Maternal Mortality in Mozambique: The Contribution of Infectious Diseases 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e44.
Background
Maternal mortality is a major health problem concentrated in resource-poor regions. Accurate data on its causes using rigorous methods is lacking, but is essential to guide policy-makers and health professionals to reduce this intolerable burden. The aim of this study was to accurately describe the causes of maternal death in order to contribute to its reduction, in one of the regions of the world with the highest maternal mortality ratios.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective study between October 2002 and December 2004 on the causes of maternal death in a tertiary-level referral hospital in Maputo, Mozambique, using complete autopsies with histological examination. HIV detection was done by virologic and serologic tests, and malaria was diagnosed by histological and parasitological examination. During 26 mo there were 179 maternal deaths, of which 139 (77.6%) had a complete autopsy and formed the basis of this analysis. Of those with test results, 65 women (52.8%) were HIV-positive. Obstetric complications accounted for 38.2% of deaths; haemorrhage was the most frequent cause (16.6%). Nonobstetric conditions accounted for 56.1% of deaths; HIV/AIDS, pyogenic bronchopneumonia, severe malaria, and pyogenic meningitis were the most common causes (12.9%, 12.2%, 10.1% and 7.2% respectively). Mycobacterial infection was found in 12 (8.6%) maternal deaths.
Conclusions
In this tertiary hospital in Mozambique, infectious diseases accounted for at least half of all maternal deaths, even though effective treatment is available for the four leading causes, HIV/AIDS, pyogenic bronchopneumonia, severe malaria, and pyogenic meningitis. These observations highlight the need to implement effective and available prevention tools, such as intermittent preventive treatment and insecticide-treated bed-nets for malaria, antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS, or vaccines and effective antibiotics for pneumococcal and meningococcal diseases. Deaths due to obstetric causes represent a failure of health-care systems and require urgent improvement.
Clara Menendez and colleagues analyze 139 complete autopsies following maternal deaths in Maputo, Mozambique and find a predominance of infectious and preventable causes.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, half a million women—many of them living in developing countries—die during pregnancy or childbirth or within a few weeks of delivery. (The term “maternal deaths” is used to designate such deaths.) For women living in sub-Saharan Africa, the situation is particularly grim. Half of all maternal deaths occur in this region. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR)—the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births—in sub-Saharan Africa is nearly 1,000; in industrialized countries it is 8. The lifetime risk of maternal death in sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 22; in industrialized countries it is 1 in 8,000. Faced with the magnitude of the global maternal death toll, in September 2000 the United Nations pledged, as its fifth Millennium Development Goal, that the global MMR would be reduced to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. Currently, it seems unlikely that this target will be met. Between 1990 and 2005 global maternal deaths decreased by only 1% per annum. In sub-Saharan Africa the annual reduction was even less—0.1% per annum.
Why Was This Study Done?
One reason for this slow progress is that public-health professionals in developing countries rarely have accurate data about the causes of maternal death, information that they need to guide their efforts to reduce these deaths. A detailed examination of the body after death (a medical autopsy) is the only sure way to ascertain the causes of maternal death, but in most developing countries, clinical records and verbal autopsies (asking relatives about the circumstances of the mother's death) are the main sources of these data and neither source is optimally accurate. The currently available information indicates that birth (obstetric) complications are the most frequent causes of maternal death in developing countries, in particular, hemorrhage (uncontrollable bleeding) after the baby is born. However, little is known about the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (which is worst in Sub-Saharan Africa), malaria, or other infectious diseases on maternal deaths. In this study, the researchers use complete autopsies to determine the causes of maternal death in the Maputo Central Hospital, Mozambique, a tertiary-level hospital to which women with high-risk pregnancies are referred for specialized care.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2002 and December 2004, there were 179 maternal deaths in the Maputo Central Hospital and 31,135 live births, corresponding to a ratio of 874 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. (Because the hospital was a referral center, this ratio would not be expected to reflect the actual MMR for the general population of the Maputo area.) Complete autopsies were done on 139 of the women, HIV infection was measured using standard tests, and malaria was diagnosed by looking for parasites and malaria-associated changes in postmortem samples. Of these 139 women, just over one-third died because of obstetric complications; hemorrhage was the most common cause of death (one in six maternal deaths). The commonest nonobstetric causes of maternal death were HIV/AIDS- related conditions, including infections and cancers (about 1 in 8 maternal deaths; about half the women in the study were HIV positive). Other common causes were pyogenic (pus-forming) bacterial infections of the lungs and brain, and malaria. Together, these infectious diseases accounted for nearly half of the maternal deaths.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that infectious diseases account for a large proportion of maternal deaths at Maputo Central Hospital and identify which obstetric complications are responsible for most maternal deaths in this setting. They may not, however, accurately reflect the causes of maternal death elsewhere in Mozambique. For example, maternal deaths from some obstetric complications may be over-represented in this study because women at risk of these complications would have been referred to this hospital. Conversely, the proportion of women dying from hemorrhage may be higher in the community because this complication usually happens shortly after birth, leaving little time for women to reach a hospital for treatment. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the implementation of effective measures to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and infections with pyogenic bacteria, together with improvements in health services for obstetric complications, should greatly reduce the maternal death toll in Mozambique and perhaps in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050044.
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank) estimates of maternal mortality for 2005 by country, and an article on maternal mortality in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique
More information on the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank estimates of maternal mortality in 2005
The UK Department for International Development provides information about Millenium Development Goal 5: the improvement of maternal health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page on pregnancy-related deaths (in English and Spanish)
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health provides information on maternal deaths (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) focuses on improving conditions for women worldwide, especially those in poverty
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050044
PMCID: PMC2245982  PMID: 18288887
7.  Inequities in accessibility to and utilisation of maternal health services in Ghana after user-fee exemption: a descriptive study 
Introduction
Inequities in accessibility to, and utilisation of maternal healthcare services impede progress towards attainment of the maternal health-related Millennium Development Goals. The objective of this study is to examine the extent to which maternal health services are utilised in Ghana, and whether inequities in accessibility to and utilization of services have been eliminated following the implementation of a user-fee exemption policy, that aims to reduce financial barriers to access, reduce inequities in access, and improve access to and use of birthing services.
Methods
We analyzed data from the 2007 Ghana Maternal Health Survey for inequities in access to and utilization of maternal health services. In measuring the inequities, frequency tables and cross-tabulations were used to compare rates of service utilization by region, residence and selected socio-demographic variables.
Results
Findings show marginal increases in accessibility to and utilisation of skilled antenatal, delivery and postnatal care services following the policy implementation (2003–2007). However, large gradients of inequities exist between geographic regions, urban and rural areas, and different socio-demographic, religious and ethnic groupings. More urban women (40%) than rural, 53% more women in the highest wealth quintile than women in the lowest, 38% more women in the best performing region (Central Region) than the worst (Upper East Region), and 48% more women with at least secondary education than those with no formal education, accessed and used all components of skilled maternal health services in the five years preceding the survey. Our findings raise questions about the potential equity and distributional benefits of Ghana’s user-fee exemption policy, and the role of non-financial barriers or considerations.
Conclusion
Exempting user-fees for maternal health services is a promising policy option for improving access to maternal health care, but might be insufficient on its own to secure equitable access to maternal health services in Ghana. Ensuring equity in access will require moving beyond user-fee exemption to addressing wider issues of supply and demand factors and the social determinants of health, including redistributing healthcare resources and services, and redressing the positional vulnerability of women in their communities.
doi:10.1186/s12939-014-0089-z
PMCID: PMC4318433  PMID: 25388288
User-fee exemption; Maternal health; Access; Inequity; Ghana
8.  The Fall and Rise of US Inequities in Premature Mortality: 1960–2002 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e46.
Background
Debates exist as to whether, as overall population health improves, the absolute and relative magnitude of income- and race/ethnicity-related health disparities necessarily increase—or derease. We accordingly decided to test the hypothesis that health inequities widen—or shrink—in a context of declining mortality rates, by examining annual US mortality data over a 42 year period.
Methods and Findings
Using US county mortality data from 1960–2002 and county median family income data from the 1960–2000 decennial censuses, we analyzed the rates of premature mortality (deaths among persons under age 65) and infant death (deaths among persons under age 1) by quintiles of county median family income weighted by county population size. Between 1960 and 2002, as US premature mortality and infant death rates declined in all county income quintiles, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities in premature mortality and infant death (both relative and absolute) shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for US populations of color; thereafter, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences barely changed in magnitude. Had all persons experienced the same yearly age-specific premature mortality rates as the white population living in the highest income quintile, between 1960 and 2002, 14% of the white premature deaths and 30% of the premature deaths among populations of color would not have occurred.
Conclusions
The observed trends refute arguments that health inequities inevitably widen—or shrink—as population health improves. Instead, the magnitude of health inequalities can fall or rise; it is our job to understand why.
Nancy Krieger and colleagues found evidence of decreasing, and then increasing or stagnating, socioeconomic and racial inequities in US premature mortality and infant death from 1960 to 2002.
Editors' Summary
Background
One of the biggest aims of public health advocates and governments is to improve the health of the population. Improving health increases people's quality of life and helps the population be more economically productive. But within populations are often persistent differences (usually called “disparities” or “inequities”) in the health of different subgroups—between women and men, different income groups, and people of different races/ethnicities, for example. Researchers study these differences so that policy makers and the broader public can be informed about what to do to intervene. For example, if we know that the health of certain subgroups of the population—such as the poor—is staying the same or even worsening as the overall health of the population is improving, policy makers could design programs and devote resources to specifically target the poor.
To study health disparities, researchers use both relative and absolute measures. Relative inequities refer to ratios, while absolute inequities refer to differences. For example, if one group's average income level increases from $1,000 to $10,000 and another group's from $2,000 to $20,000, the relative inequality between the groups stays the same (i.e., the ratio of incomes between the two groups is still 2) but the absolute difference between the two groups has increased from $1,000 to $10,000.
Examining the US population, Nancy Krieger and colleagues looked at trends over time in both relative and absolute differences in mortality between people in different income groups and between whites and people of color.
Why Was This Study Done?
There has been a lot of debate about whether disparities have been widening or narrowing as overall population health improves. Some research has found that both total health and health disparities are getting better with time. Other research has shown that overall health gains mask worsening disparities—such that the rich get healthier while the poor get sicker.
Having access to more data over a longer time frame meant that Krieger and colleagues could provide a more complete picture of this sometimes contradictory story. It also meant they could test their hypothesis about whether, as population health improves, health inequities necessarily widen or shrink within the time period between the 1960s through the 1990s during which certain events and policies likely would have had an impact on the mortality trends in that country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate health inequities, the authors chose to look at two common measures of population health: rates of premature mortality (dying before the age of 65 years) and rates of infant mortality (death before the age of 1).
To determine mortality rates, the authors used death statistics data from different counties, which are routinely collected by state and national governments. To be able to rank mortality rates for different income groups, they used data on the median family incomes of people living within those counties (meaning half the families had income above, and half had incomes below, the median value). They calculated mortality rates for the total population and for whites versus people of color. They used data from 1960 through 2002. They compared rates for 1966–1980 with two other time periods: 1960–1965 and 1981–2002. They also examined trends in the annual mortality rates and in the annual relative and absolute disparites in these rates by county income level.
Over the whole period 1960–2002, the authors found that premature mortality (death before the age of 65) and infant mortality (death before the age of 1) decreased for all income groups. But they also found that disparities between income groups and between whites and people of color were not the same over this time period. In fact, the economic disparities narrowed then widened. First, they shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for Americans of color. After 1980, however, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences did not change. The authors conclude that if all people in the US population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged did during these 42 years (i.e., as the whites in the highest income groups), 14% of the premature deaths among whites and 30% of the premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings provide an overview of the trends in inequities in premature and infant mortality over a long period of time. Different explanations for these trends can now be tested. The authors discuss several potential reasons for these trends, including generally rising incomes across America and changes related to specific diseases, such as the advent of HIV/AIDS, changes in smoking habits, and better management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But they find that these do not explain the fall then rise of inequities. Instead, the authors suggest that explanations lie in the social programs of the 1960s and the subsequent roll-back of some of these programmes in the 1980s. The US “War on Poverty,” civil rights legislation, and the establishment of Medicare occurred in the mid 1960s, which were intended to reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities and improve access to health care. In the 1980s there was a general cutting back of welfare state provisions in America, which included cuts to public health and antipoverty programs, tax relief for the wealthy, and worsening inequity in the access to and quality of health care. Together, these wider events could explain the fall then rise trends in mortality disparities.
The authors say their findings are important to inform and help monitor the progress of various policies and programmes, including those such as the Healthy People 2010 initiative in America, which aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and decrease health disparities by the end of this decade.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed. 0050046.
Healthy People 2010 was created by the US Department of Health and Human Services along with scientists inside and outside of government and includes a comprehensive set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the US to achieve by 2010, with two overarching goals: to increase quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities
Johan Mackenbach and colleagues provide an overview of mortality inequalities in six Western European countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England/Wales, and Italy—and conclude that eliminating mortality inequalities requires that more cardiovascular deaths among lower socioeconomic groups be prevented, as well as more attention be paid to rising death rates of lung cancer, breast cancer, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and injuries among women and men in the lower income groups.
The WHO Health for All program promotes health equity
A primer on absolute versus relative differences is provided by the American College of Physicians
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050046
PMCID: PMC2253609  PMID: 18303941
9.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Background
Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. Reproductive and maternal health indicators have not been measured in this setting but are necessary as part of an evaluation of a multi-ethnic pilot project exploring strategies to increase access to essential maternal health interventions. The goal of this study is to estimate coverage of maternal health services prior to this project and associations between exposure to human rights violations and access to such services.
Methods and Findings
Selected communities in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma that were accessible to community-based organizations operating from Thailand were surveyed to estimate coverage of reproductive, maternal, and family planning services, and to assess exposure to household-level human rights violations within the pilot-project target population. Two-stage cluster sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) documented access to essential antenatal care interventions, skilled attendance at birth, postnatal care, and family planning services. Mid-upper arm circumference, hemoglobin by color scale, and Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by rapid diagnostic dipstick were measured. Exposure to human rights violations in the prior 12 mo was recorded. Between September 2006 and January 2007, 2,914 surveys were conducted. Eighty-eight percent of women reported a home delivery for their last pregnancy (within previous 5 y). Skilled attendance at birth (5.1%), any (39.3%) or ≥ 4 (16.7%) antenatal visits, use of an insecticide-treated bed net (21.6%), and receipt of iron supplements (11.8%) were low. At the time of the survey, more than 60% of women had hemoglobin level estimates ≤ 11.0 g/dl and 7.2% were Pf positive. Unmet need for contraceptives exceeded 60%. Violations of rights were widely reported: 32.1% of Karenni households reported forced labor and 10% of Karen households had been forced to move. Among Karen households, odds of anemia were 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–2.40) times higher among women reporting forced displacement, and 7.47 (95% CI 2.21–25.3) higher among those exposed to food security violations. The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were 5.94 (95% CI 2.23–15.8) times higher among those forcibly displaced.
Conclusions
Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region. Considerable political, financial, and human resources are necessary to improve access to maternal health care in these communities.
Luke Mullany and colleagues examine access to essential maternal health interventions and human rights violations within vulnerable communities in eastern Burma.
Editors' Summary
Background.
After decades of military rule, Burma has one of the world's worst health-care systems and high levels of ill health. For example, maternal mortality (deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes) is around 360 per 100,000 live births in Burma, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44 per 100,000 live births. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states in eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, maternal mortality is thought to be about 1000 per 100, 000 live births. In an effort to improve access to life-saving maternal health interventions in these states, Burmese community-based health organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Global Health Access Program in the USA, and the Mae Tao Clinic (a health-worker training center in Thailand) recently set up the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project. In this pilot project, local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, emergency obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), blood transfusion, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic. Back in Burma, these maternal health workers trained additional local health workers and traditional birth attendants. All these individuals now provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The effectiveness of the MOM project can only be evaluated if accurate baseline information on women's access to maternal health-care services is available. This information is also needed to ensure the wise use of scarce health-care resources. However, very little is known about reproductive and maternal health in eastern Burma. In this study, the researchers analyze the information on women's access to reproductive and maternal health-care services that was collected during the initial field implementation stage of the MOM project. In addition, they analyze whether exposure to enforced village relocations and other human rights violations affect access to maternal health-care services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained survey workers asked nearly 3000 ever-married women of reproductive age in the selected communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. They measured each woman's mid-upper arm circumference (an indicator of nutritional status) and tested them for anemia (iron deficiency) and infection with malaria parasites (a common cause of anemia in tropical countries). Finally, they asked the women about any recent violations of their human rights such as forced labour or relocation. Nearly 90% of the women reported a home delivery for their last baby. A skilled attendant was present at only one in 20 births and only one in three women had any antenatal care. One third of the women received postnatal care and only a third said they had access to effective contraceptives. Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites. Many women also showed signs of poor nutrition. Finally, human rights violations were widely reported by the women. In Karen, the region containing most of the study communities, forced relocation tripled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that access to maternal health-care interventions is extremely limited and that poor nutrition, anemia, and malaria, all of which increase the risk of pregnancy complications, are widespread in the communities in the MOM project. Because these communities had some basic health services and access to training in Thailand before the project started, these results probably underestimate the lack of access to maternal health-care services in eastern Burma. Nevertheless, it is clear that considerable political, financial, and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region. Finally, the findings also reveal a link between human rights violations and reduced access to maternal health-care services. Thus, the scale of human rights violations will need to be considered when evaluating programs designed to improve maternal health in Burma and in other places where there is ongoing conflict.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Macaya Douoguih
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao Clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
More information about the MOM project is available in a previous publication by the researchers
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and ongoing efforts to save mothers' lives around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
10.  The Influence of Distance and Level of Care on Delivery Place in Rural Zambia: A Study of Linked National Data in a Geographic Information System 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000394.
Using linked national data in a geographic information system system, Sabine Gabrysch and colleagues investigate the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia.
Background
Maternal and perinatal mortality could be reduced if all women delivered in settings where skilled attendants could provide emergency obstetric care (EmOC) if complications arise. Research on determinants of skilled attendance at delivery has focussed on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment, in part due to a lack of suitable data. The aim of this study was to quantify the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia, and to compare their population impact to that of other important determinants.
Methods and Findings
Using a geographic information system (GIS), we linked national household data from the Zambian Demographic and Health Survey 2007 with national facility data from the Zambian Health Facility Census 2005 and calculated straight-line distances. Health facilities were classified by whether they provided comprehensive EmOC (CEmOC), basic EmOC (BEmOC), or limited or substandard services. Multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed to investigate the influence of distance to care and level of care on place of delivery (facility or home) for 3,682 rural births, controlling for a wide range of confounders. Only a third of rural Zambian births occurred at a health facility, and half of all births were to mothers living more than 25 km from a facility of BEmOC standard or better. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of facility delivery decreased by 29% (95% CI, 14%–40%). Independently, each step increase in level of care led to 26% higher odds of facility delivery (95% CI, 7%–48%). The population impact of poor geographic access to EmOC was at least of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
Conclusions
Lack of geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor explaining why most rural deliveries in Zambia still occur at home without skilled care. Addressing geographic and quality barriers is crucial to increase service use and to lower maternal and perinatal mortality. Linking datasets using GIS has great potential for future research and can help overcome the neglect of health system factors in research and policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Approximately 360,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth, of which more than 200,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman's lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy remains as high as 1 in 31 (compared to 1 in 4,300 in the developed world). The target of Millennium Development Goal 5 is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015. Most maternal and neonatal deaths in low-income countries could be prevented if all women delivered their babies in settings where skilled birth attendants (such as midwives) were available and could provide emergency obstetric care to both mothers and babies in case of complications. Yet every year roughly 50 million women give birth at home without skilled care.
Why was this study done?
The likelihood of a woman giving birth in a health facility under the care of a skilled birth attendant depends on many factors. These include characteristics of the mother and her family, such as education level and household wealth, and aspects of the health service environment—distance to the nearest health facility and the quality of care provided at that facility, for example. However, research to date has typically focused on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment on choice of delivery place, largely because suitable data was not available. In this study in rural Zambia, the researchers aimed to quantify the effects of the health service environment, namely distance to health care and the level of care provided, on pregnant women's use of health facilities for giving birth. To put these factors in context, the researchers compared the impact of distance to quality care on place of delivery to that of other important factors, such as poverty and education.
What did the researchers do and find?
Using a geographic information system (GIS), the researchers linked national household data (from the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey) with national facility data (from the 2005 Zambian Health Facility Census) and calculated straight-line distances between women's villages and health facilities. Health facilities were classified as providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care, basic emergency obstetric care, or limited or substandard services by using reported capability to perform a certain number of the eight emergency obstetric care signal functions: injectable antibiotics, injectable oxytocics, injectable anticonvulsants, manual removal of placenta, manual removal of retained products, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean section, and blood transfusion, as well as criteria on staffing, opening hours and referral capacity. The researchers used data from 3,682 rural births and multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses to investigate whether distance to, and level of care at the closest delivery facility influence place of delivery (health facility or home), keeping other influential factors constant.
The researchers found that only a third of births in rural Zambia occurred at a health facility, and half of all mothers who gave birth lived more than 25 km from a health facility that provided basic emergency obstetric services. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of a women giving birth in a health facility decreased by 29%. Independently, each step increase in the level of emergency obstetric care provided at the closest delivery facility led to an increased likelihood (26% higher odds) of a woman delivering her baby at a facility. The researchers estimated that the impact of poor geographic access to emergency obstetric services was of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
What do these findings mean?
The results of this study suggest that poor geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor in explaining why most women in rural Zambia still deliver their babies at home without skilled care. Therefore, in order to increase the number of women delivering in health facilities and thus reduce maternal and neonatal mortality, it is crucial to address the geographic and quality barriers to delivery service use. Furthermore, the methodology used in this study—linking datasets using GIS— has great potential for future research as it can help explore the influence of health system factors also for other health problems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000394.
Information about emergency obstetric care is provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Various topics on maternal health are presented by WHO, WHO Regional Office Africa, by UNPFA, and UNICEF
WHO offers detailed information about MDG5
Family Care International offers more information about maternal and neonatal health
The Averting Maternal Death and Disability program (AMDD) provides information on needs assessments of emergency obstetric and newborn care
Countdown to 2015 tracks progress in maternal, newborn, and child survival
WHO provides free online viewing of BBC Fight for Life videos describing delivery experiences in different countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000394
PMCID: PMC3026699  PMID: 21283606
11.  Alternative Strategies to Reduce Maternal Mortality in India: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000264.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sue Goldie and colleagues finds that better family planning, provision of safe abortion, and improved intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care could reduce maternal mortality in India by 75% in 5 years.
Background
Approximately one-quarter of all pregnancy- and delivery-related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. Taking into account the costs, feasibility, and operational complexity of alternative interventions, we estimate the clinical and population-level benefits associated with strategies to improve the safety of pregnancy and childbirth in India.
Methods and Findings
Country- and region-specific data were synthesized using a computer-based model that simulates the natural history of pregnancy (both planned and unintended) and pregnancy- and childbirth-associated complications in individual women; and considers delivery location, attendant, and facility level. Model outcomes included clinical events, population measures, costs, and cost-effectiveness ratios. Separate models were adapted to urban and rural India using survey-based data (e.g., unmet need for birth spacing/limiting, facility births, skilled birth attendants). Model validation compared projected maternal indicators with empiric data. Strategies consisted of improving coverage of effective interventions that could be provided individually or packaged as integrated services, could reduce the incidence of a complication or its case fatality rate, and could include improved logistics such as reliable transport to an appropriate referral facility as well as recognition of referral need and quality of care. Increasing family planning was the most effective individual intervention to reduce pregnancy-related mortality. If over the next 5 y the unmet need for spacing and limiting births was met, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented; more than US$1 billion saved; and at least one of every two abortion-related deaths averted. Still, reductions in maternal mortality reached a threshold (∼23%–35%) without including strategies that ensured reliable access to intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care (EmOC). An integrated and stepwise approach was identified that would ultimately prevent four of five maternal deaths; this approach coupled stepwise improvements in family planning and safe abortion with consecutively implemented strategies that incrementally increased skilled attendants, improved antenatal/postpartum care, shifted births away from home, and improved recognition of referral need, transport, and availability/quality of EmOC. The strategies in this approach ranged from being cost-saving to having incremental cost-effectiveness ratios less than US$500 per year of life saved (YLS), well below India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a common benchmark for cost-effectiveness.
Conclusions
Early intensive efforts to improve family planning and control of fertility choices and to provide safe abortion, accompanied by a paced systematic and stepwise effort to scale up capacity for integrated maternal health services over several years, is as cost-effective as childhood immunization or treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV. In just 5 y, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be averted through increasing contraception rates to meet women's needs for spacing and limiting births; nearly US$1.5 billion would be saved by coupling safe abortion to aggressive family planning efforts; and with stepwise investments to improve access to pregnancy-related health services and to high-quality facility-based intrapartum care, more than 75% of maternal deaths could be prevented. If accomplished over the next decade, the lives of more than one million women would be saved.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than half a million women—most of them living in developing countries—die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. About a quarter of these “maternal” deaths occur in India. In 2005, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death in India was 1 in 70; in the UK, it was only one in 8,200. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR; number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) in India was 450, whereas in the UK it was eight. Faced with the enormous maternal death toll in India and other developing countries, in September 2000, the United Nations pledged, as its fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5), that the global MMR would be reduced to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. Currently, it seems unlikely that this target will be met. Between 1990 and 2005, global maternal deaths decreased by only 1% per annum instead of the 5% needed to reach MDG 5; in India, the decrease in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2005 was about 1.8% per annum.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most maternal deaths in developing countries are caused by severe bleeding after childbirth, infections soon after delivery, blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, and obstructed (difficult) labors. Consequently, experts agree that universal access to high-quality routine care during labor (“obstetric” care) and to emergency obstetrical care is needed to reduce maternal deaths. However, there is less agreement about how to adapt these “ideal recommendations” to specific situations. In developing countries with weak health systems and predominantly rural populations, it is unlikely that all women will have access to emergency obstetric care in the near future—so would beginning with improved access to family planning and to safe abortions (unsafe abortion is another major cause of maternal death) be a more achievable, more cost-effective way of reducing maternal deaths? How would family planning and safe abortion be coupled efficiently and cost-effectively with improved access to intrapartum care? In this study, the researchers investigate these questions by estimating the health and economic outcomes of various strategies to reduce maternal mortality in India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a computer-based model that simulates women through pregnancy and childbirth to estimate the effect of different strategies (for example, increased family planning or increased access to obstetric care) on clinical outcomes (pregnancies, live births, or deaths), costs, and cost-effectiveness (the cost of saving one year of life) in India. Increased family planning was the most effective single intervention for the reduction of pregnancy-related mortality. If the current unmet need for family planning in India could be fulfilled over the next 5 years, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented, more than US$1 billion saved, and at least half of abortion-related deaths averted. However, increased family planning alone would reduce maternal deaths by 35% at most, so the researchers also used their model to test the effect of combinations of strategies on maternal death. They found that an integrated and stepwise approach (increased family planning and safe abortion combined with consecutively increased skilled birth attendants, improved care before and after birth, reduced home births, and improved emergency obstetric care) could eventually prevent nearly 80% of maternal deaths. All the steps in this strategy either saved money or involved an additional cost per year of life saved of less than US$500; given one suggested threshold for cost-effectiveness in India of the per capita GDP (US$1,068) per year of life saved, these strategies would be considered very cost-effective.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions used to build the model and the quality of the data fed into it. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that early intensive efforts to improve family planning and to provide safe abortion accompanied by a systematic, stepwise effort to improve integrated maternal health services could reduce maternal deaths in India by more than 75% in less than a decade. Furthermore, such a strategy would be cost-effective. Indeed, note the researchers, the cost savings from an initial focus on family planning and safe abortion provision would partly offset the resources needed to assure that every woman had access to high quality routine and emergency obstetric care. Thus, overall, these findings suggest that MDG 5 may be within reach in India, a conclusion that should help to mobilize political support for this worthy goal.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264.
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank 2005 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization also provides information on maternal health and about MDG 5 (in several languages)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Web site provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators, and about MDG 5.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress toward all the MDGs
Computer simulation modeling as applied to health is further discussed at the Center for Health Decision Science at Harvard University
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264
PMCID: PMC2857650  PMID: 20421922
12.  Role of community based savings groups (CBSGs) enhancing the utilization of community midwives in chitral district of Pakistan 
Background
Maternal and infant mortality rates in the district of Chitral in Pakistan are alarmingly high. One of the major reasons for this is the inability of women to access skilled care due to the high costs associated with traveling and utilizing such services. The Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan (AKHSP) in partnership with the national and provincial Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) program, deployed 28 community midwives (CMWs) in remote villages of Chitral district. This program has also established Community-Based Savings Groups (CBSGs) to support and facilitate access to MNCH services, in particular those delivered by the CMWs. CBSGs are a simple yet cost-effective and sustainable means of providing basic financial services to low income, marginalized, rural populations.
The link between CBSGs and utilization of MNCH services is not well understood. This study will assess the relationship between women membership of CBSGs and their utilization of MNCH services, specifically those offered by CMWs, in the community.
Methods
The research question will be answered through guided interviews of women in the target population who have delivered within one month. The outcome variable will be the utilization of full continuum of skilled MNCH care (disaggregated by 1+ ANC, 1+ PNC and skilled delivery). The primary independent variable of interest will be participation in a CBSG.
Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) will be conducted to generate further understanding and information about the social and financial factors that contribute to health behavior and health provider decision-making during pregnancy.
Analysis will be tailored to answer how CBSGs, directly or indirectly, facilitate greater financial and/or social access to CMW services for pregnant women. Furthermore, the extent to which financial or social empowerment through a CBSG leads to greater utilization of CMW services.
Discussion
The role of CBSGs and their interlink with the CMWs services to be replicated in other comparable areas in Pakistan as a viable mean to increase MNCH service utilization amongst rural, low income, and marginalized communities. Findings from this research will be disseminated through community, national, and international channels consisting of policy makers and social society groups.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-185
PMCID: PMC3852470  PMID: 24112445
Community based savings groups; Community midwives; Maternal Neonatal and Child Health
13.  Challenges in delivery of skilled maternal care – experiences of community midwives in Pakistan 
Background
Maternal mortality ratio in Pakistan remains high at 276 per 100000 live births (175 in the urban areas and 319 in rural) with a mother dying as a result of giving birth every 20 minutes. Despite the intervening years since the Safe Motherhood Initiative launch and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there have been few improvements in MDGs 4 and 5 in Pakistan. A key underlying reason is that only 39% of the births are attended by skilled birth attendants. Pakistan, like many other developing countries has been struggling to make improvements in maternal and neonatal health, amongst other measures, which include a nationwide health infrastructure network. Recently, government of Pakistan revised its maternal and newborn health program and introduced a new cadre of community based birth attendants, called community midwives (CMW), trained to conduct home-based deliveries. There is limited research available on field experiences of community midwives as maternal health care providers. Formative research was designed and conducted in a rural district of Pakistan with the objective of exploring role of CMWs as home based skilled service providers and the challenges they face in provision of skilled maternal care.
Methods
A qualitative research using content analysis was conducted in one rural district (Attock) of Pakistan. Focus group discussions were conducted with CMWs and other community based health workers as LHWs and LHSs, focusing on the role of CMWs in the existing primary health care infrastructure.
Results
Results of this study reveal that the community midwives are struggling for survival in rural areas as maternal care providers as they are inadequately trained, lack sufficient resources to deliver services in their catchment areas and lack facilitation for integration in district health system.
Conclusions
CMWs face many challenges in the field related to the communities' attitude and the health system. With adequate training and facilitation by health department, CMWs have potential to play a vital role in reducing burden of maternal morbidity and in achieving significant gains in improving maternal and child health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-59
PMCID: PMC3922011  PMID: 24499344
14.  A decade of improvements in equity of access to reproductive and maternal health services in Cambodia, 2000–2010 
Introduction
Despite encouraging reductions in global maternal mortality rates, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health remains the most off-track of all MDGs. Furthermore a preoccupation with aggregate coverage statistics masks extensive disparities in health improvements between societal groups. Recent national health indicators for Cambodia highlight impressive improvements, for example, in maternal, infant and child mortality, whilst substantial government commitments have been made since 2000 to address health inequities. It is therefore timely to explore the extent of equity in access to key reproductive and maternal health services in Cambodia and how this has changed over time.
Methods
Analysis was conducted on three rounds of Demographic and Health Survey data from 2000, 2005 and 2010. Outcome variables comprised utilisation of six reproductive and maternal health services – antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, facility-based delivery, postnatal care, met need for family planning and abortion by skilled provider. Four equity measures were calculated – equity gaps, equity ratios, concentration curves and concentration indices. Household assets were used to create the social-stratification variable, using principal components analysis.
Results
Coverage levels of all six services improved over the decade. Coverage improvements were greatest amongst wealthier quintiles of the population, although poorer quintiles also increased use of services. Critically, inequity in service use of all services dramatically reduced over time, except for postnatal care where inequity increased slightly. However, in 2010 inequity in service use remained favouring wealthier quintiles, greatest in use of skilled birth attendance and facility-based delivery, though the magnitude of inequity was substantially reduced compared to 2000. Met need for family planning was almost perfectly equitable in 2010.
Conclusions
Cambodia has made impressive improvements in overall coverage of reproductive and maternal health services over the last decade, and also in the distribution of their use across wealth quintiles. A range of pro-poor health financing and supply-side policies as well as non-health factors may have contributed to these achievements. Further research will explore specific schemes qualitatively and quantitatively to assess their impact on equity and service use.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-51
PMCID: PMC3723953  PMID: 23837577
Equity; Access; Utilisation; Reproductive and maternal health services; Cambodia
15.  Inequity in India: the case of maternal and reproductive health 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19145.
Background
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 is focused on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health care. India has made extensive efforts to achieve MDG 5 and in some regions much progress has been achieved. Progress has been uneven and inequitable however, and many women still lack access to maternal and reproductive health care.
Objective
In this review, a framework developed by the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) is used to categorize and explain determinants of inequity in maternal and reproductive health in India.
Design
A review of peer-reviewed, published literature was conducted using the electronic databases PubMed and Popline. The search was performed using a carefully developed list of search terms designed to capture published papers from India on: 1) maternal and reproductive health, and 2) equity, including disadvantaged populations. A matrix was developed to sort the relevant information, which was extracted and categorized based on the CSDH framework. In this way, the main sources of inequity in maternal and reproductive health in India and their inter-relationships were determined.
Results
Five main structural determinants emerged from the analysis as important in understanding equity in India: economic status, gender, education, social status (registered caste or tribe), and age (adolescents). These five determinants were found to be closely interrelated, a feature which was reflected in the literature.
Conclusion
In India, economic status, gender, and social status are all closely interrelated when influencing use of and access to maternal and reproductive health care. Appropriate attention should be given to how these social determinants interplay in generating and sustaining inequity when designing policies and programs to reach equitable progress toward improved maternal and reproductive health.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19145
PMCID: PMC3617912  PMID: 23561028
maternal and reproductive health; millennium development goal 5; inequity; disadvantaged populations; social determinants of health; India
16.  National data system on near miss and maternal death: shifting from maternal risk to public health impact in Nigeria 
Background
The lack of reliable and up-to-date statistics on maternal deaths and disabilities remains a major challenge to the implementation of Nigeria's Road Map to Accelerate the Millennium Development Goal related to Maternal Health (MDG-5). There are currently no functioning national data sources on maternal deaths and disabilities that could serve as reference points for programme managers, health advocates and policy makers. While awaiting the success of efforts targeted at overcoming the barriers facing establishment of population-based data systems, referral institutions in Nigeria can contribute their quota in the quest towards MDG-5 by providing good quality and reliable information on maternal deaths and disabilities on a continuous basis. This project represents the first opportunity to initiate a scientifically sound and reliable quantitative system of data gathering on maternal health profile in Nigeria.
Objective
The primary objective is to create a national data system on maternal near miss (MNM) and maternal mortality in Nigerian public tertiary institutions. This system will conduct periodically, both regionally and at country level, a review of the magnitude of MNM and maternal deaths, nature of events responsible for MNM and maternal deaths, indices for the quality of care for direct obstetric complications and the health service events surrounding these complications, in an attempt to collectively define and monitor the standard of comprehensive emergency obstetric care in the country.
Methods
This will be a nationwide cohort study of all women who experience MNM and those who die from pregnancy, childbirth and puerperal complications using uniform criteria among women admitted in tertiary healthcare facilities in the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This will be accomplished by establishing a network of all public tertiary obstetric referral institutions that will prospectively collect specific information on potentially fatal maternal complications. For every woman enrolled, the health service events (care pathways) within the facility will be evaluated to identify areas of substandard care/avoidable factors through clinical audit by the local research team. A summary estimate of the frequencies of MNM and maternal deaths will be determined at intervals and indicators of quality of care (case fatality rate, both total and cause-specific and mortality index) will be evaluated at facility, regional and country levels.
Management
Overall project management will be from the Centre for Research in Reproductive Health (CRRH), Sagamu, Nigeria. There will be at least two meetings and site visits for efficient coordination of the project by regional coordinators and central coordinating staff. Data will be transferred electronically by hospital and regional coordinators and managed at the Data Management Unit of CRRH, Sagamu, Nigeria.
Expected outcomes
The outcome of the study would provide useful information to the health practitioners, policy-makers and international partners on the strengths and weaknesses of the infrastructures provided for comprehensive emergency obstetric care in Nigeria. The successful implementation of this project will pave way for the long-awaited Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths that would guide the formulation and or revision of obstetric policies and practices in Nigeria. Lessons learnt from the establishment of this data system can also be used to set up similar structures at lower levels of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-6-8
PMCID: PMC2702364  PMID: 19508717
17.  Inequity in maternal health care service utilization in Gujarat: analyses of district-level health survey data 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19652.
Background
Two decades after the launch of the Safe Motherhood campaign, India still accounts for at least a quarter of maternal death globally. Gujarat is one of the most economically developed states of India, but progress in the social sector has not been commensurate with economic growth. The purpose of this study was to use district-level data to gain a better understanding of equity in access to maternal health care and to draw the attention of the policy planers to monitor equity in maternal care.
Methods
Secondary data analyses were performed among 7,534 ever-married women who delivered since January 2004 in the District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS-3) carried out during 2007–2008 in Gujarat, India. Based on the conceptual framework designed by the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, associations were assessed between three outcomes – Institutional delivery, antenatal care (ANC), and use of modern contraception – and selected intermediary and structural determinants of health using multiple logistic regression.
Results
Inequities in maternal health care utilization persist in Gujarat. Structural determinants like caste group, wealth, and education were all significantly associated with access to the minimum three antenatal care visits, institutional deliveries, and use of any modern method of contraceptive. There is a significant relationship between being poor and access to less utilization of ANC services independent of caste category or residence.
Discussion and conclusions
Poverty is the most important determinant of non-use of maternal health services in Gujarat. In addition, social position (i.e. caste) has a strong independent effect on maternal health service use. More focused and targeted efforts towards these disadvantaged groups needs to be taken at policy level in order to achieve targets and goals laid out as per the MDGs. In particular, the Government of Gujarat should invest more in basic education and infrastructural development to begin to remove the structural causes of non-use of maternal health services.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19652
PMCID: PMC3591509  PMID: 23469890
maternal health; health care utilization; inequity; antenatal care; skilled birth attendance; Gujarat
18.  Tracking Official Development Assistance for Reproductive Health in Conflict-Affected Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(6):e1000090.
Preeti Patel and colleagues report inequity in the disbursement of official development assistance for reproductive health between countries affected by conflict and those unaffected.
Background
Reproductive health needs are particularly acute in countries affected by armed conflict. Reliable information on aid investment for reproductive health in these countries is essential for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of aid. The purpose of this study was to analyse official development assistance (ODA) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries from 2003 to 2006.
Methods and Findings
The Creditor Reporting System and the Financial Tracking System databases were the chosen data sources for the study. ODA disbursement for reproductive health activities to 18 conflict-affected countries was analysed for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. An average of US$20.8 billion in total ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006, of which US$509.3 million (2.4%) was allocated to reproductive health. This represents an annual average of US$1.30 disbursed per capita in the 18 sampled countries for reproductive health activities. Non-conflict-affected least-developed countries received 53.3% more ODA for reproductive health activities than conflict-affected least-developed countries, despite the latter generally having greater reproductive health needs. ODA disbursed for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment increased by 119.4% from 2003 to 2006. The ODA disbursed for other direct reproductive health activities declined by 35.9% over the same period.
Conclusions
This study provides evidence of inequity in disbursement of reproductive health ODA between conflict-affected countries and non-conflict-affected countries, and between different reproductive health activities. These findings and the study's recommendations seek to support initiatives to make aid financing more responsive to need in the context of armed conflict.
Editors' Summary
Background
Reproductive health concerns the bodily functions and systems that are involved in conceiving and bearing offspring. A reproductively healthy person is able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and to reproduce if and when they chose to do so. More specifically, to ensure their reproductive health, both men and women need access to safe and effective birth control methods, they need to know how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), and they need access to treatment should they become infected. Women also need access to appropriate health-care services to safeguard their own health and their offspring's health during pregnancy and childbirth. Reproductive health is essential for the wellbeing of individuals and families and for the social and economic development of nations. Consequently, some of the official development assistance (ODA) given to developing countries by wealthier nations and by international agencies is being used to improve reproductive health. Indeed, several of the Millennium Development Goals (internationally agreed targets designed to eradicate global poverty by 2015) are directly related to reproductive health, including the improvement of maternal health and the control of HIV/AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many developing countries, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Sudan, are experiencing violent conflicts. Such conflicts tend to slow down the development of low-income countries, and can also cause harm to reproductive health by damaging the health-service infrastructure and by increasing exposure to sexual violence. Although conflict-affected low-income countries rely heavily on international and humanitarian aid for basic health-care provision, there is little reliable information about how much of this aid is invested in reproductive health in such countries. This information is needed to ensure that development aid is used effectively. In this study, therefore, the researchers analyze the amount of ODA disbursed (the amount of official development money paid to recipient countries) for reproductive health activities in conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified eighteen countries (mostly “least-developed” countries as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; OEDC) that had been at war at sometime during the study period. They obtained information on ODA disbursements for reproductive health activities mainly from the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database, which is maintained by the OECD, but also from the Financial Tracking System (FTS) database, which is maintained by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An average of US$20.8 billion in ODA was disbursed annually to the 18 conflict-affected countries between 2003 and 2006. Only US$509.3 million (2.4%) of this was allocated to reproductive health. Put another way, each person living in these conflict-affected countries received US$1.30 per year for their reproductive health needs. By contrast, people in non-conflict-affected least-developed countries each received 50% more ODA for reproductive health activities, even though these countries often had better reproductive health indicators than the conflict-affected countries. The researchers also found that nearly half of ODA disbursed for reproductive health was used for HIV/AIDS-related activities. This portion of ODA increased slightly during the study period in the conflict-affected countries whereas ODA disbursed for other reproductive health activities fell by a third.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings do not take into account money provided to conflict-affected developing countries for reproductive health activities by large philanthropic organizations, they nevertheless reveal an inequality between conflict-affected and non-conflict affected countries in terms of the development money provided for reproductive health. This is a worrying finding given that reproductive health tends to suffer in countries affected by war and poor reproductive health can slow down development. The findings of this study also suggest that funding for non-HIV reproductive health activities is declining in conflict-affected countries. Importantly, they also highlight additional research that is needed to ensure that donors of development aid can be more responsive in future to the reproductive health needs of conflict-affected countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Paul Spiegel and colleagues
The World Health organization provides information about reproductive health, including information on its 2004 global strategy for reproductive health (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on reproductive health (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on reproductive health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages
The United Nations provides information on the Millennium Development Goals
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development provides information on ODA through its Creditor Reporting System database; the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provides similar information for other donors through its Financial Tracking System database
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium promotes access to reproductive health programs in emergencies and advocates for policies that support reproductive health of persons affected by armed conflict
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090
PMCID: PMC2682761  PMID: 19513098
19.  Clinico-Pathological Discrepancies in the Diagnosis of Causes of Maternal Death in Sub-Saharan Africa: Retrospective Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(2):e1000036.
Background
Maternal mortality is a major public-health problem in developing countries. Extreme differences in maternal mortality rates between developed and developing countries indicate that most of these deaths are preventable. Most information on the causes of maternal death in these areas is based on clinical records and verbal autopsies. Clinical diagnostic errors may play a significant role in this problem and might also have major implications for the evaluation of current estimations of causes of maternal death.
Methods and Findings
A retrospective analysis of clinico-pathologic correlation was carried out, using necropsy as the gold standard for diagnosis. All maternal autopsies (n = 139) during the period from October 2002 to December 2004 at the Maputo Central Hospital, Mozambique were included and major diagnostic discrepancies were analyzed (i.e., those involving the cause of death). Major diagnostic errors were detected in 56 (40.3%) maternal deaths. A high rate of false negative diagnoses was observed for infectious diseases, which showed sensitivities under 50%: HIV/AIDS-related conditions (33.3%), pyogenic bronchopneumonia (35.3%), pyogenic meningitis (40.0%), and puerperal septicemia (50.0%). Eclampsia, was the main source of false positive diagnoses, showing a low predictive positive value (42.9%).
Conclusions
Clinico-pathological discrepancies may have a significant impact on maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and question the validity of reports based on clinical data or verbal autopsies. Increasing clinical awareness of the impact of obstetric and nonobstetric infections with their inclusion in the differential diagnosis, together with a thorough evaluation of cases clinically thought to be eclampsia, could have a significant impact on the reduction of maternal mortality.
Jaume Ordi and colleagues examine the discrepancies between clinical diagnoses of causes of maternal deaths and pathological findings by necropsy in Mozambique.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, about half a million women die during pregnancy or childbirth or soon after delivery—so-called “maternal deaths.” Although nearly all these maternal deaths occur in developing countries, the situation is particularly bad in sub-Saharan Africa where more than a quarter of a million maternal deaths occur annually. The number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in this region is nearly 1,000, whereas in developed regions it is only nine deaths. A 15-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa has a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth of 1 in 22, but a girl living in the developed regions of the world has a lifetime risk of only 1 in 7,300. Maternal deaths can be caused by obstetric (childbirth-related) complications such as puerperal septicemia (an infection of the blood contracted during delivery) and eclampsia (seizures associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy), and by nonobstetric conditions such as HIV/AIDS-related infections and other infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2000, the United Nations made reduction of the global burden of maternal mortality one of its Millennium Development Goals (a set of targets designed to eradicate poverty by 2015), but little progress has been made toward achieving this goal. One possible explanation for this failure might be that limited access to diagnostic tests in developing countries results in more clinical diagnostic errors than in developed countries and that, consequently, mothers in developing countries don't always get the right treatment when they become ill. Unfortunately, it is difficult to test this hypothesis, because there is very little accurate information on the causes of maternal death in many developing countries. What information there is comes mainly from clinical records and verbal autopsies (asking relatives about the mother's death) rather than from examination of the body after death (a medical autopsy), the only sure way to ascertain the cause of death. In this study, the researchers retrospectively analyze discrepancies between the clinical diagnoses and autopsy diagnoses of 139 mothers who died at the Maputo Central Hospital, Mozambique, a large hospital providing specialized care for women with high-risk pregnancies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
All the organs from the mothers were visually examined by a pathologist and samples of any abnormal tissues and of the internal organs were examined microscopically. Two pathologists independently established the cause of each death by considering both the clinical diagnosis and the autopsy results (the “autopsy diagnosis”). The discrepancies between the clinical and autopsy (“gold standard”) diagnoses were then analyzed. Major diagnostic errors (errors involving the cause of death) occurred in nearly half of the maternal deaths; the clinical and autopsy diagnoses completely agreed in only a third of cases. 80% of the major diagnostic errors were “class I errors.” That is, errors where a correct diagnosis would have changed patient management and prolonged survival or provided a cure. For example, 12 women were given an incorrect diagnosis of eclampsia when they had other conditions that could have been successfully treated if correctly diagnosed. Furthermore, many infections detected in the autopsies were missed in the clinical diagnoses (false-negative diagnoses), some of which could have been treated.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that clinical and autopsy diagnoses of the causes of maternal death frequently disagree in this hospital. Further studies are needed to see whether similar levels of disagreement exist in other hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa. The discrepancy reported here might, for example, be an overestimate of the general situation, because the high-risk pregnancies referred to this hospital might involve more hard-to-diagnose problems than the routine pregnancies referred to other hospitals. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that misdiagnosed conditions may affect maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa and that an increased use of autopsy in the region could reduce maternal mortality by providing more accurate information about why mothers die. In particular, these findings suggest that a more thorough evaluation of cases thought to be eclampsia and a better awareness of the involvement of infectious diseases in maternal deaths might reduce diagnostic errors and consequently reduce the incidence of maternal deaths.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000036.
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality and the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank estimates of maternal mortality for 2005 by country
The WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank estimates of maternal mortality in 2005 also provides full information about global maternal mortality
The UK Department for International Development provides information about Millenium Development Goal 5: the improvement of maternal health
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health provides information on maternal deaths (in several languages), including information on the situation in Mozambique
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000036
PMCID: PMC2646780  PMID: 19243215
20.  Disadvantaged populations in maternal health in China who and why? 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19542.
Background
China has made impressive progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal and reproductive health, but ensuring that progress reaches all segments of the population remains a challenge for policy makers. The aim of this review is to map disadvantaged populations in terms of maternal health in China, and to explain the causes of these inequities to promote policy action.
Methods
We searched PUBMED, Popline, Proquest and WanFang and included primary studies conducted in mainland China. Experts were also contacted to identify additional studies. Disadvantaged populations in terms of MDG 5 and the reasons for this disadvantage explored by authors were identified and coded based on the conceptual framework developed by the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health.
Results
In China, differences in maternal health service utilization and the maternal mortality ratio among different income groups, and among regions with different socio-economic development still exist, although these differences are narrowing. Groups with low levels of education and ethnic minorities utilize maternal health care less frequently and experience higher maternal mortality, although we could not determine whether these differences have changed in the last decade. Rural-to-urban migrants use maternal health care and contraception to a lower extent than permanent residents of cities, and differential maternal mortality shows a widening trend among these groups. Gender inequity also contributes to the disadvantaged position of women. Intermediary factors that explain these inequities include material circumstances such as long distances to health facilities for women living in remote areas, behavioral factors such as traditional beliefs that result in reduced care seeking among ethnic minorities, and health system determinants such as out-of-pocket payments posing financial barriers for the poor.
Conclusions
Inequity in maternal health continues to be an issue worthy of greater programmatic and monitoring efforts in China.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.19542
PMCID: PMC3617641  PMID: 23561030
maternal health; equity; disadvantaged populations; China
21.  Impact of Community-Based Maternal Health Workers on Coverage of Essential Maternal Health Interventions among Internally Displaced Communities in Eastern Burma: The MOM Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000317.
Mullany and colleagues report outcomes from a project involving delivery of community-based maternal health services in eastern Burma, and report substantial increases in coverage of care.
Background
Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.
Methods
Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.
Results
Among 2,889 and 2,442 women of reproductive age in 2006 and 2008, respectively, population characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic distribution, literacy) were similar. Compared to baseline, women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period were substantially more likely to receive antenatal care (71.8% versus 39.3%, prevalence rate ratio [PRR] = 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.04]) and specific interventions such as urine testing (42.4% versus 15.7%, PRR = 2.69 [95% CI 2.69–3.54]), malaria screening (55.9% versus 21.9%, PRR = 2.88 [95% CI 2.15–3.85]), and deworming (58.2% versus 4.1%, PRR = 14.18 [95% CI 10.76–18.71]. Postnatal care visits within 7 d doubled. Use of modern methods to avoid pregnancy increased from 23.9% to 45.0% (PRR = 1.88 [95% CI 1.63–2.17]), and unmet need for contraception was reduced from 61.7% to 40.5%, a relative reduction of 35% (95% CI 28%–40%). Attendance at birth by those trained to deliver elements of emergency obstetric care increased almost 10-fold, from 5.1% to 48.7% (PRR = 9.55 [95% CI 7.21–12.64]).
Conclusions
Coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project's focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care (including family planning) is particularly bad in war-torn countries. In Burma, for example, where there have been decades of conflict between the military junta and ethnic minority resistance groups, the maternal mortality rate (the number of deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births) is around 380, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, the maternal mortality rate is around 1,200. In an effort to improve access to maternal health services in these regions, community-based organizations in Burma, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and the Global Health Access Program undertook an innovative pilot project—the Mobile Obstetric Medics (MOM) project—between 2005 and 2008. Local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), postnatal care, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. These “maternal health workers” then returned to Burma where they trained local health workers and traditional birth attendants to provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before the MOM project started, nearly 3,000 women living in the study communities were surveyed to evaluate the coverage of essential antenatal care interventions such as urine testing for infections during pregnancy, screening for malaria, and deworming; Urinary tract infections, malaria, and hookworm infections all increase the risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. The preproject survey also evaluated how many births were attended by people able to deal with complications, and the provision of postnatal care and family planning services. In this study, the researchers undertake a similar postproject survey to evaluate the impact of MOM on the coverage of essential maternal health interventions among internally displaced communities in eastern Burma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2008 and December 2008, trained survey workers asked nearly 2,500 ever-married women of reproductive age from the project's study communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. The results of the postproject survey were then compared with those of the “baseline,” preproject survey. The general characteristics (age, marital status, ethnicity, and literacy) of the women included in the two surveys were very similar. However, 71.8% of the women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period of the MOM project had received antenatal care compared to only 39.3% of women surveyed at baseline. Similarly, among the women questioned during the postproject survey, 42.4% had had their urine tested and 55.9% had been screened for malaria during pregnancy compared to only 15.7% and 21.9%, respectively, of the women questioned in the preproject survey. Deworming had increased from 4.1% to 58.2% during the project, postnatal care visits within 7 days had doubled, and attendance at birth by people trained to deal with obstetric emergencies had increased 10-fold from 5.1% to 48.7%. Finally, the use of modern contraception methods (slow-release contraceptives, oral contraceptives, and condoms) had increased from 23.9% to 45.0%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a substantial improvement in access to maternal and reproductive health care in the study communities during the MOM project. However, because the study compared two independent groups of women before and after implementation of the MOM project rather than concurrently comparing groups of women who did and did not receive the services provided by the MOM project, this study does not prove that the MOM approach was the cause of the changes in the coverage of essential maternal health care. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the type of approach used in the MOM project—the expansion of interventions (including components of emergency obstetric care) delivered outside healthcare facilities by community-based providers—might be an effective way to deliver maternal and reproductive health services in other parts of Burma and in other places where there are ongoing conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317.
More information about the MOM project is available in previous publications by the researchers in PLoS Medicine, in Reproductive Health Matters, and in Social Science and Medicine
Additional resources are also available on the MOM Project
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium provides information on how conflicts affect reproductive health
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations, including those that affect maternal health in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and maternal and reproductive health during conflicts and among refugees (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
22.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Background
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
Conclusions
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
23.  A serial qualitative interview study of infant feeding experiences: idealism meets realism 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000504.
Objective
To investigate the infant feeding experiences of women and their significant others from pregnancy until 6 months after birth to establish what would make a difference.
Design
Qualitative serial interview study.
Setting
Two health boards in Scotland.
Participants
72 of 541 invited pregnant women volunteered. 220 interviews approximately every 4 weeks with 36 women, 26 partners, eight maternal mothers, one sister and two health professionals took place.
Results
The overarching theme was a clash between overt or covert infant feeding idealism and the reality experienced. This is manifest as pivotal points where families perceive that the only solution that will restore family well-being is to stop breast feeding or introduce solids. Immediate family well-being is the overriding goal rather than theoretical longer term health benefits. Feeding education is perceived as unrealistic, overly technical and rules based which can undermine women's confidence. Unanimously families would prefer the balance to shift away from antenatal theory towards more help immediately after birth and at 3–4 months when solids are being considered. Family-orientated interactive discussions are valued above breastfeeding-centred checklist style encounters.
Conclusions
Adopting idealistic global policy goals like exclusive breast feeding until 6 months as individual goals for women is unhelpful. More achievable incremental goals are recommended. Using a proactive family-centred narrative approach to feeding care might enable pivotal points to be anticipated and resolved. More attention to the diverse values, meanings and emotions around infant feeding within families could help to reconcile health ideals with reality.
Article summary
Article focus
To investigate the perspectives of women and their wider family and social network on infant feeding from pregnancy until 6 months after birth.
To ascertain what would make a difference to their experiences of breast feeding and the introduction of other fluids and solids.
To focus on health inequalities and to understand interactions between women, professionals, organisations and systems to inform policy, practice and the design of complex intervention trials to improve infant feeding outcomes.
Key messages
Clashes between overt or covert idealism and realism within and between families and the health service occur at pivotal points particularly in the early weeks after birth and around the introduction of solids.
At pivotal points, families often perceive the only solution within their control that will restore family well-being is to stop breast feeding or introduce solids or other fluids. Using a family-centred narrative approach could enable pivotal points to be anticipated and resolved.
Translating global policy goals like exclusive breast feeding until 6 months into practice is unhelpful and achievable incremental goal setting is recommended.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Original interpretation using robust and transparent methods in a relatively large data set of serial interviews about infant feeding, with recruitment of women living in more disadvantaged areas.
Findings which are relevant to current policy and practice, particularly the Unicef Baby Friendly initiative.
An explicit aim to elicit the views of women and their significant others to inform future intervention studies, policy and practice.
Our findings are hypothesis generating rather than hypothesis testing.
It is uncertain how transferable our data is outside the UK context, particularly to countries where breast feeding prevalence is high.
Although we targeted more disadvantaged areas for recruitment, our sample was more economically advantaged than we would have liked.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000504
PMCID: PMC3307036  PMID: 22422915
24.  Public-sector Maternal Health Programmes and Services for Rural Bangladesh 
Achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 in Bangladesh calls for an appreciation of the evolution of maternal healthcare within the national health system to date plus a projection of future needs. This paper assesses the development of maternal health services and policies by reviewing policy and strategy documents since the independence in 1971, with primary focus on rural areas where three-fourths of the total population of Bangladesh reside. Projections of need for facilities and human resources are based on the recommended standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996 and 2005. Although maternal healthcare services are delivered from for-profit and not-for-profit (NGO) subsectors, this paper is focused on maternal healthcare delivery by public subsector. Maternal healthcare services in the public sector of Bangladesh have been guided by global policies (e.g. Health for All by the Year 2000), national policies (e.g. population and health policy), and plans (e.g. five- or three-yearly). The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), through its two wings—Health Services and Family Planning—sets policies, develops implementation plans, and provides rural public-health services. Since 1971, the health infrastructure has developed though not in a uniform pattern and despite policy shifts over time. Under the Family Planning wing of the MoHFW, the number of Maternal and Child Welfare Centres has not increased but new services, such as caesarean-section surgery, have been integrated. The Health Services wing of the MoHFW has ensured that all district-level public-health facilities, e.g. district hospitals and medical colleges, can provide comprehensive essential obstetric care (EOC) and have targeted to upgrade 132 of 407 rural Upazila Health Complexes to also provide such services. In 2001, they initiated a programme to train the Government's community workers (Family Welfare Assistants and Female Health Assistants) to provide skilled birthing care in the home. However, these plans have been too meagre, and their implementation is too weak to fulfill expectations in terms of the MDG 5 indicator—increased use of skilled birth attendants, especially for poor rural women. The use of skilled birth attendants, institutional deliveries, and use of caesarean section remain low and are increasing only slowly. All these indicators are substantially lower for those in the lower three socioeconomic quintiles. A wide variation exists in the availability of comprehensive EOC facilities in the public sector among the six divisions of the country. Rajshahi division has more facilities than the WHO 1996 standard (1 comprehensive EOC for 500,000 people) whereas Chittagong and Sylhet divisions have only 64% of their need for comprehensive EOC facilities. The WHO 2005 recommendation (1 comprehensive EOC for 3,500 births) suggests that there is a need for nearly five times the existing national number of comprehensive EOC facilities. Based on the WHO standard 2005, it is estimated that 9% of existing doctors and 40% of nurses/midwives were needed just for maternal healthcare in both comprehensive EOC and basic EOC facilities in 2007. While the inability to train and retain skilled professionals in rural areas is the major problem in implementation, the bifurcation of the MoHFW (Health Services and Family Planning wings) has led to duplication in management and staff for service-delivery, inefficiencies as a result of these duplications, and difficulties of coordination at all levels. The Government of Bangladesh needs to functionally integrate the Health Services and Family Planning wings, move towards a facility-based approach to delivery, ensure access to key maternal health services for women in the lower socioeconomic quintiles, consider infrastructure development based on the estimation of facilities using the WHO 1996 recommendation, and undertake a human resource-development plan based on the WHO 2005 recommendation.
PMCID: PMC2761780  PMID: 19489411
Maternal health; Maternal health services; Rural health services; Bangladesh
25.  Factors Affecting the Delivery, Access, and Use of Interventions to Prevent Malaria in Pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001488.
Jenny Hill and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies to explore the factors that affect the delivery, access, and use of interventions to prevent malaria in pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria in pregnancy has important consequences for mother and baby. Coverage with the World Health Organization–recommended prevention strategy for pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) and insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) is low. We conducted a systematic review to explore factors affecting delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among healthcare providers and women.
Methods and Results
We searched the Malaria in Pregnancy Library and Global Health Database from 1 January 1990 to 23 April 2013, without language restriction. Data extraction was performed by two investigators independently, and data was appraised for quality and content. Data on barriers and facilitators, and the effect of interventions, were explored using content analysis and narrative synthesis. We conducted a meta-analysis of determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake using random effects models, and performed subgroup analysis to evaluate consistency across interventions and study populations, countries, and enrolment sites. We did not perform a meta-ethnography of qualitative data.
Ninety-eight articles were included, of which 20 were intervention studies. Key barriers to the provision of IPTp and ITNs were unclear policy and guidance on IPTp; general healthcare system issues, such as stockouts and user fees; health facility issues stemming from poor organisation, leading to poor quality of care; poor healthcare provider performance, including confusion over the timing of each IPTp dose; and women's poor antenatal attendance, affecting IPTp uptake. Key determinants of IPTp coverage were education, knowledge about malaria/IPTp, socio-economic status, parity, and number and timing of antenatal clinic visits. Key determinants of ITN coverage were employment status, education, knowledge about malaria/ITNs, age, and marital status. Predictors showed regional variations.
Conclusions
Delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics presents fewer problems than delivery of IPTp. Many obstacles to IPTp delivery are relatively simple barriers that could be resolved in the short term. Other barriers are more entrenched within the overall healthcare system or socio-economic/cultural contexts, and will require medium- to long-term strategies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half the world's population is at risk of malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite that kills a million people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause maternal death, severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Malaria in pregnancy is responsible for about 100,000 babies and 10,000 women dying every year but is preventable by simple, inexpensive interventions that have been available for many years. The World Health Organization recommends a three-pronged approach to the prevention of malaria in pregnancy in areas with stable malaria transmission in Africa—delivery of the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to pregnant women during antenatal clinic visits (intermittent preventative treatment in pregnancy; IPTp), the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) to protect pregnant women from the bites of infected mosquitoes, and effective diagnosis and case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Coverage with this prevention strategy is currently very low. Recent survey data from sub-Saharan African countries suggest that only about a quarter of pregnant women receive two doses of IPTp and only about a third use ITNs. To improve coverage, public health experts need to understand why coverage is so low, and they need to know the factors (determinants) that are associated with the uptake of IPTp and ITNs. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data such as reasons for not accepting an intervention, whereas quantitative studies collect numerical data such as the proportion of a population accepting an intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' search of the Malaria in Pregnancy Library (a resource maintained by the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium) and the Global Health Database identified 98 studies that provided data on barriers to and determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake and/or data on interventions designed to increase IPTp and ITN uptake. The researchers explored these data using content analysis (a research methodology that examines words and phrases within texts) and narrative synthesis (a method for summarizing results drawn from several qualitative studies). Key barriers to the provision and uptake of IPTp and ITNs included unclear policy and guidance on IPTp, general healthcare system issues such as drug shortages, healthcare facility issues such as unavailability of water for the provision of IPTp by directly observed therapy, poor healthcare provider performance such as confusion about the timing of IPTp doses, and the delayed antenatal care-seeking practices of pregnant women. The researchers' meta-analysis identified education, knowledge about malaria, socio-economic status, number and timing of antenatal clinic visits, and number of pregnancies as key determinants of IPTp uptake, and employment status, education, knowledge, age, and marital status as key determinants of coverage of ITN use. So, for example, highly educated women were more likely to receive IPTp or ITNs than poorly educated women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify key interacting barriers to access, delivery, and use of IPTp and ITNs in sub-Saharan Africa and show that these barriers are relatively consistent across countries. Moreover, they suggest that there are fewer barriers to the delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics than to the delivery of IPTp. Importantly, some of the barriers to IPTp uptake can be resolved in the short term (for example, simplification of country policies and guidance on IPTp might increase its uptake), but barriers to uptake that are entrenched within the overall healthcare system will only be resolved with medium- to long-term strategies that aim to improve the quality of antenatal services and to encourage antenatal clinic use among women. Overall, this analysis provides a checklist of factors that policy-makers involved in national malaria programs may be able to use to help them decide which interventions to prioritize. However, the researchers warn, multi-country studies are nevertheless urgently needed to evaluate targeted or multifaceted interventions designed to increase delivery and uptake of IPTp and ITNs, to reduce the adverse consequences of malaria in pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on IPTp; the World Malaria Report 2012 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria and on IPTp; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488
PMCID: PMC3720261  PMID: 23935459

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