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2.  Creating a public space and dialogue on sexuality and rights: a case study from Bangladesh 
Health Research Policy and Systems  2011;9(Suppl 1):S12.
This article describes and analyses a research based engagement by a university school of public health in Bangladesh aimed at raising public debate on sexuality and rights and making issues such as discrimination more visible to policy makers and other key stakeholders in a challenging context. The impetus for this work came from participation in an international research programme with a particular interest in bridging international and local understandings of sexual and reproductive rights. The research team worked to create a platform to broaden discussions on sexuality and rights by building on a number of research activities on rural and urban men’s and women’s sexual health concerns, and on changing concepts of sexuality and understandings of sexual rights among specific population groups in Dhaka city, including sexual minorities. Linked to this on-going process of improving the evidence base, there has been a series of learning and capacity building activities over the last four years consisting of training workshops, meetings, conferences and dialogues. These brought together different configurations of stakeholders – members of sexual minorities, academics, service providers, advocacy organisations, media and policy makers. This process contributed to developing more effective advocacy strategies through challenging representations of sexuality and rights in the public domain. Gradually, these efforts brought visibility to hidden or stigmatised sexuality and rights issues through interim outcomes that have created important steps towards changing attitudes and policies. These included creating safe spaces for sexual minorities to meet and strategise, development of learning materials for university students and engagement with legal rights groups on sexual rights. Through this process, it was found to be possible to create a public space and dialogue on sexuality and rights in a conservative and challenging environment like Bangladesh by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to successfully challenge representations of sexuality in the public arena. A further challenge for BRAC University has been to assess its role as a teaching and research organisation, and find a balance between the two roles of research and activism in doing work on sexuality issues in a very sensitive political context.
PMCID: PMC3121129  PMID: 21679379
3.  Strengthening the research to policy and practice interface: exploring strategies used by research organisations working on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS 
This commentary introduces the HARPS supplement on getting research into policy and practice in sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The papers in this supplement have been produced by the Sexual Health and HIV Evidence into Practice (SHHEP) collaboration of international research, practitioner and advocacy organizations based in research programmes funded by the UK Department for International Development.
The commentary describes the increasing interest from research and communication practitioners, policy makers and funders in expanding the impact of research on policy and practice. It notes the need for contextually embedded understanding of ways to engage multiple stakeholders in the politicized, sensitive and often contested arenas of sexual and reproductive health. The commentary then introduces the papers under their respective themes: (1) The theory and practice of research engagement (two global papers); (2) Applying policy analysis to explore the role of research evidence in SRH and HIV/AIDS policy (two papers with examples from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia); (3) Strategies and methodologies for engagement (five papers on Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Swaziland respectively); (4) Advocacy and engagement to influence attitudes on controversial elements of sexual health (two papers, Bangladesh and global); and (5) Institutional approaches to inter-sectoral engagement for action and strengthening research communications (two papers, Ghana and global).
The papers illustrate the many forms research impact can take in the field of sexual and reproductive health. This includes discursive changes through carving out legitimate spaces for public debate; content changes such as contributing to changing laws and practices, procedural changes such as influencing how data on SRH are collected, and behavioural changes through partnerships with civil society actors such as advocacy groups and journalists.
The contributions to this supplement provide a body of critical analysis of communication and engagement strategies across the spectrum of SRH and HIV/AIDS research through the testing of different models for the research-to-policy interface. They provide new insights on how researchers and communication specialists can respond to changing policy climates to create windows of opportunity for influence.
PMCID: PMC3121133  PMID: 21679383
4.  Women's health groups to improve perinatal care in rural Nepal 
Neonatal mortality rates are high in rural Nepal where more than 90% of deliveries are in the home. Evidence suggests that death rates can be reduced by interventions at community level. We describe an intervention which aimed to harness the power of community planning and decision making to improve maternal and newborn care in rural Nepal.
The development of 111 women's groups in a population of 86 704 in Makwanpur district, Nepal is described. The groups, facilitated by local women, were the intervention component of a randomized controlled trial to reduce perinatal and neonatal mortality rates. Through participant observation and analysis of reports, we describe the implementation of this intervention: the community entry process, the facilitation of monthly meetings through a participatory action cycle of problem identification, community planning, and implementation and evaluation of strategies to tackle the identified problems.
In response to the needs of the group, participatory health education was added to the intervention and the women's groups developed varied strategies to tackle problems of maternal and newborn care: establishing mother and child health funds, producing clean home delivery kits and operating stretcher schemes. Close linkages with community leaders and community health workers improved strategy implementation. There were also indications of positive effects on group members and health services, and most groups remained active after 30 months.
A large scale and potentially sustainable participatory intervention with women's groups, which focused on pregnancy, childbirth and the newborn period, resulted in innovative strategies identified by local communities to tackle perinatal care problems.
PMCID: PMC1079874  PMID: 15771772
5.  Care for perinatal illness in rural Nepal: a descriptive study with cross-sectional and qualitative components 
Maternal, perinatal and neonatal mortality rates remain high in rural areas of developing countries. Most deliveries take place at home and care-seeking behaviour is often delayed. We report on a combined quantitative and qualitative study of care seeking obstacles and practices relating to perinatal illness in rural Makwanpur district, Nepal, with particular emphasis on consultation strategies.
The analysis included a survey of 8798 women who reported a birth in the previous two years [of whom 3557 reported illness in their pregnancy], on 30 case studies of perinatal morbidity and mortality, and on 43 focus group discussions with mothers, other family members and health workers.
Early pregnancy was often concealed, preparation for birth was minimal and trained attendance at birth was uncommon. Family members were favoured attendants, particularly mothers-in-law. The most common recalled maternal complications were prolonged labour, postpartum haemorrhage and retained placenta. Neonatal death, though less definable, was often associated with cessation of suckling and shortness of breath. Many home-based care practices for maternal and neonatal illness were described. Self-medication was common.
There were delays in recognising and acting on danger signs, and in seeking care beyond the household, in which the cultural requirement for maternal seclusion, and the perceived expense of care, played a part. Of the 760 women who sought care at a government facility, 70% took more than 12 hours from the decision to seek help to actual consultation. Consultation was primarily with traditional healers, who were key actors in the ascription of causation. Use of the government primary health care system was limited: the most common source of allopathic care was the district hospital.
Major obstacles to seeking care were: a limited capacity to recognise danger signs; the need to watch and wait; and an overwhelming preference to treat illness within the community. Safer motherhood and newborn care programmes in rural communities, must address both community and health facility care to have an impact on morbidity and mortality. The roles of community actors such as mothers-in-law, husbands, local healers and pharmacies, and increased access to properly trained birth attendants need to be addressed if delays in reaching health facilities are to be shortened.
PMCID: PMC194728  PMID: 12932300
Perinatal illness; health care seeking practices; Nepal; Safe Motherhood; Traditional Healer; Traditional Birth Attendant.
6.  Cross sectional, community based study of care of newborn infants in Nepal 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;325(7372):1063.
To determine home based newborn care practices in rural Nepal in order to inform strategies to improve neonatal outcome.
Cross sectional, retrospective study using structured interviews.
Makwanpur district, Nepal.
5411 married women aged 15 to 49 years who had given birth to a live baby in the past year.
Main outcome measures
Attendance at delivery, hygiene, thermal care, and early feeding practices.
4893 (90%) women gave birth at home. Attendance at delivery by skilled government health workers was low (334, 6%), as was attendance by traditional birth attendants (267, 5%). Only 461 (8%) women had used a clean home delivery kit, and about half of attendants had washed their hands. Only 3482 (64%) newborn infants had been wrapped within half an hour of birth, and 4992 (92%) had been bathed within the first hour. 99% (5362) of babies were breast fed, 91% (4939) within six hours of birth. Practices with respect to colostrum and prelacteals were not a cause for anxiety.
Health promotion interventions most likely to improve newborn health in this setting include increasing attendance at delivery by skilled service providers, improving information for families about basic perinatal care, promotion of clean delivery practices, early cord cutting and wrapping of the baby, and avoidance of early bathing.
What is already known on this topicMost births in rural south Asia occur at homeNeonatal mortality has remained fairly constant in developing countries despite falling infant mortalityWhat this paper addsOnly 6% of births in rural Nepal took place in the presence of a skilled attendantCord cutting implements were often unclean and drying and wrapping of newborn infants was usually delayed99% of babies were breast fed, 92% of them within six hours of birth, and colostrum was generally givenInterventions need to focus on educating women about hygiene, encouraging early wrapping, and delaying bathing of newborn babies
PMCID: PMC131178  PMID: 12424164

Results 1-6 (6)