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1.  Prevalence and determinants of caesarean section in private and public health facilities in underserved South Asian communities: cross-sectional analysis of data from Bangladesh, India and Nepal 
BMJ Open  2014;4(12):e005982.
To describe the prevalence and determinants of births by caesarean section in private and public health facilities in underserved communities in South Asia.
Cross-sectional study.
81 community-based geographical clusters in four locations in Bangladesh, India and Nepal (three rural, one urban).
45 327 births occurring in the study areas between 2005 and 2012.
Outcome measures
Proportion of caesarean section deliveries by location and type of facility; determinants of caesarean section delivery by location.
Institutional delivery rates varied widely between settings, from 21% in rural India to 90% in urban India. The proportion of private and charitable facility births delivered by caesarean section was 73% in Bangladesh, 30% in rural Nepal, 18% in urban India and 5% in rural India. The odds of caesarean section were greater in private and charitable health facilities than in public facilities in three of four study locations, even when adjusted for pregnancy and delivery characteristics, maternal characteristics and year of delivery (Bangladesh: adjusted OR (AOR) 5.91, 95% CI 5.15 to 6.78; Nepal: AOR 2.37, 95% CI 1.62 to 3.44; urban India: AOR 1.22, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.38). We found that highly educated women were particularly likely to deliver by caesarean in private facilities in urban India (AOR 2.10; 95% CI 1.61 to 2.75) and also in rural Bangladesh (AOR 11.09, 95% CI 6.28 to 19.57).
Our results lend support to the hypothesis that increased caesarean section rates in these South Asian countries may be driven in part by the private sector. They also suggest that preferences for caesarean delivery may be higher among highly educated women, and that individual-level and provider-level factors interact in driving caesarean rates higher. Rates of caesarean section in the private sector, and their maternal and neonatal health outcomes, require close monitoring.
PMCID: PMC4283435  PMID: 25550293
2.  A qualitative study of the background and in-hospital medicolegal response to female burn injuries in India 
BMC Women's Health  2014;14(1):142.
Most burns happen in low- and middle-income countries. In India, deaths related to burns are more common in women than in men and occur against a complex background in which the cause – accidental or non-accidental, suicidal or homicidal – is often unclear. Our study aimed to understand the antecedents to burns and the problem of ascribing cause, the sequence of medicolegal events after a woman was admitted to hospital, and potential opportunities for improvement.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 33 women admitted to two major burns units, their families, and 26 key informant doctors, nurses, and police officers. We used framework analysis to examine the context in which burns occurred and the sequence of medicolegal action after admission to hospital.
Interviewees described accidents, attempted suicide, and attempted homicide. Distinguishing between these was difficult because the underlying combination of poverty and cultural precedent was common to all and action was contingent on potentially conflicting narratives. Space constraint, problems with cooking equipment, and inflammable clothing increased the risk of accidental burns, but coexisted with household conflict, gender-based violence, and alcohol use. Most burns were initially ascribed to accidents. Clinicians adhered to medicolegal procedures, the police carried out their investigative requirements relatively rapidly, but both groups felt vulnerable in the face of the legal process. Women’s understandable reticence to describe burns as non-accidental, the contested nature of statements, their perceived history of changeability, the limited quality and validity of forensic evidence, and the requirement for resilience on the part of clients underlay a general pessimism.
The similarities between accident and intention cluster so tightly as to make them challenging to distinguish, especially given women’s understandable reticence to describe burns as non-accidental. The contested status of forensic evidence and a reliance on testimony means that only a minority of cases lead to conviction. The emphasis should be on improving documentation, communication between service providers, and public understanding of the risks of burns.
PMCID: PMC4260258  PMID: 25433681
India; Poverty areas; Burns; Violence against women
3.  Effect of antenatal multiple micronutrient supplementation on anthropometry and blood pressure in mid-childhood in Nepal: follow-up of a double-blind randomised controlled trial 
The Lancet. Global Health  2014;2(11):e654-e663.
In 2002–04, we did a randomised controlled trial in southern Nepal, and reported that children born to mothers taking multiple micronutrient supplements during pregnancy had a mean birthweight 77 g greater than children born to mothers taking iron and folic acid supplements. Children born to mothers in the study group were a mean 204 g heavier at 2·5 years of age and their systolic blood pressure was a mean 2·5 mm Hg lower than children born to mothers in the control group. We aimed to follow up the same children to mid-childhood (age 8·5 years) to investigate whether these differences would be sustained.
For this follow-up study, we identified children from the original trial and measured anthropometry, body composition with bioelectrical impedance (with population-specific isotope calibration), blood pressure, and renal dimensions by ultrasound. We documented socioeconomic status, household food security, and air pollution. Main outcomes of the follow-up at 8 years were Z scores for weight-for-age, height-for-age, and body-mass index (BMI)-for-age according to WHO Child Growth Standards for children aged 5–19 years, and blood pressure. This study is registered with the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial register, number ISRCTN88625934.
Between Sept 21, 2011, and Dec 7, 2012, we assessed 841 children (422 in the control group and 419 in the intervention group). Unadjusted differences (intervention minus control) in Z scores were 0·05 for weight-for-age (95% CI −0·09 to 0·19), 0·02 in height-for-age (−0·10 to 0·15), and 0·04 in BMI-for-age (−0·09 to 0·18). We recorded no difference in blood pressure. Adjusted differences were similar for all outcomes.
We recorded no differences in phenotype between children born to mothers who received antenatal multiple micronutrient or iron and folate supplements at age 8·5 years. Our findings did not extend to physiological differences or potential longer-term effects.
The Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC4224012  PMID: 25442690
4.  Risk of childhood undernutrition related to small-for-gestational age and preterm birth in low- and middle-income countries 
Background Low- and middle-income countries continue to experience a large burden of stunting; 148 million children were estimated to be stunted, around 30–40% of all children in 2011. In many of these countries, foetal growth restriction (FGR) is common, as is subsequent growth faltering in the first 2 years. Although there is agreement that stunting involves both prenatal and postnatal growth failure, the extent to which FGR contributes to stunting and other indicators of nutritional status is uncertain.
Methods Using extant longitudinal birth cohorts (n = 19) with data on birthweight, gestational age and child anthropometry (12–60 months), we estimated study-specific and pooled risk estimates of stunting, wasting and underweight by small-for-gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth.
Results We grouped children according to four combinations of SGA and gestational age: adequate size-for-gestational age (AGA) and preterm; SGA and term; SGA and preterm; and AGA and term (the reference group). Relative to AGA and term, the OR (95% confidence interval) for stunting associated with AGA and preterm, SGA and term, and SGA and preterm was 1.93 (1.71, 2.18), 2.43 (2.22, 2.66) and 4.51 (3.42, 5.93), respectively. A similar magnitude of risk was also observed for wasting and underweight. Low birthweight was associated with 2.5–3.5-fold higher odds of wasting, stunting and underweight. The population attributable risk for overall SGA for outcomes of childhood stunting and wasting was 20% and 30%, respectively.
Conclusions This analysis estimates that childhood undernutrition may have its origins in the foetal period, suggesting a need to intervene early, ideally during pregnancy, with interventions known to reduce FGR and preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3816349  PMID: 23920141
Foetal growth restriction; preterm birth; stunting; wasting; childhood
5.  Barriers to and incentives for achieving partograph use in obstetric practice in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review 
The partograph is a graphic display of the progress of labour, recommended by the World Health Organization, but often underused in practice in low- and middle-income countries. We were interested in going beyond demonstration of potential efficacy – on which the existing literature concentrates - through a systematic review to identify barriers to and incentives for achieving partograph use.
We searched Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid Maternity and Infant Care, POPLINE, Web of Science, and Scopus, from 1st January 1994 to 30th September 2013, using the term ‘partogra*’ to include ‘partograph’, ‘partogram’, or ‘partogramme’. The selection criteria were for primary or secondary research describing barriers to and incentives for partograph use in low- and middle-income countries, in English, reported in peer-reviewed publications since 1994. Thematic analysis of text on partograph use was applied to a commonly used framework for change in clinical practice, with levels describing the innovation, the individual professional, the woman, and social, organisational, economic and political contexts.
Reported barriers to and incentives for partograph use related to the partograph itself, professional skills and practice, clinical leadership and quality assurance, and the organisational environment within the wider provision of obstetric care. Neither the evidence base for its effectiveness, nor its credibility, was reported as a barrier to use.
Identifying and addressing local barriers and incentives in low- and middle-income countries, based on those in published research, could inform strategies to improve partograph use. Emerging technologies could be used to address some barriers. The thresholds for essential maternity care at which the partograph adds value should be further evaluated.
PMCID: PMC4147181  PMID: 25132124
Obstetrics; Labor; Obstetric; Health knowledge; Attitudes; Practice; Quality of health care; Developing countries; Review; Systematic
6.  The intergenerational effects of war on the health of children 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:57.
The short- and medium-term effects of conflict on population health are reasonably well documented. Less considered are its consequences across generations and potential harms to the health of children yet to be born.
Looking first at the nature and effects of exposures during conflict, and then at the potential routes through which harm may propagate within families, we consider the intergenerational effects of four features of conflict: violence, challenges to mental health, infection and malnutrition. Conflict-driven harms are transmitted through a complex permissive environment that includes biological, cultural and economic factors, and feedback loops between sources of harm and weaknesses in individual and societal resilience to them. We discuss the multiplicative effects of ongoing conflict when hostilities are prolonged.
We summarize many instances in which the effects of war can propagate across generations. We hope that the evidence laid out in the article will stimulate research and – more importantly – contribute to the discussion of the costs of war; particularly in the longer-term in post-conflict situations in which interventions need to be sustained and adapted over many years.
PMCID: PMC3997818  PMID: 24694212
War; Conflict; Developmental origins; Children; Mental health
7.  A probabilistic method to estimate the burden of maternal morbidity in resource-poor settings: preliminary development and evaluation 
Maternal morbidity is more common than maternal death, and population-based estimates of the burden of maternal morbidity could provide important indicators for monitoring trends, priority setting and evaluating the health impact of interventions. Methods based on lay reporting of obstetric events have been shown to lack specificity and there is a need for new approaches to measure the population burden of maternal morbidity. A computer-based probabilistic tool was developed to estimate the likelihood of maternal morbidity and its causes based on self-reported symptoms and pregnancy/delivery experiences. Development involved the use of training datasets of signs, symptoms and causes of morbidity from 1734 facility-based deliveries in Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as expert review. Preliminary evaluation of the method compared the burden of maternal morbidity and specific causes from the probabilistic tool with clinical classifications of 489 recently-delivered women from Benin, Bangladesh and India.
Using training datasets, it was possible to create a probabilistic tool that handled uncertainty of women’s self reports of pregnancy and delivery experiences in a unique way to estimate population-level burdens of maternal morbidity and specific causes that compared well with clinical classifications of the same data. When applied to test datasets, the method overestimated the burden of morbidity compared with clinical review, although possible conceptual and methodological reasons for this were identified.
The probabilistic method shows promise and may offer opportunities for standardised measurement of maternal morbidity that allows for the uncertainty of women’s self-reported symptoms in retrospective interviews. However, important discrepancies with clinical classifications were observed and the method requires further development, refinement and evaluation in a range of settings.
PMCID: PMC3975153  PMID: 24620784
Maternal health; Morbidity; Developing countries; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Bayesian analysis; Africa; Asia
8.  Understanding psychological distress among mothers in rural Nepal: a qualitative grounded theory exploration 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14:60.
There is a large burden of psychological distress in low and middle-income countries, and culturally relevant interventions must be developed to address it. This requires an understanding of how distress is experienced. We conducted a qualitative grounded theory study to understand how mothers experience and manage distress in Dhanusha, a low-resource setting in rural Nepal. We also explored how distressed mothers interact with their families and the wider community.
Participants were identified during a cluster-randomised controlled trial in which mothers were screened for psychological distress using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). We conducted 22 semi-structured interviews with distressed mothers (GHQ-12 score ≥5) and one with a traditional healer (dhami), as well as 12 focus group discussions with community members. Data were analysed using grounded theory methods and a model was developed to explain psychological distress in this setting.
We found that distress was termed tension by participants and mainly described in terms of physical symptoms. Key perceived causes of distress were poor health, lack of sons, and fertility problems. Tension developed in a context of limited autonomy for women and perceived duty towards the family. Distressed mothers discussed several strategies to alleviate tension, including seeking treatment for perceived physical health problems and tension from doctors or dhamis, having repeated pregnancies until a son was delivered, manipulating social circumstances in the household, and deciding to accept their fate. Their ability to implement these strategies depended on whether they were able to negotiate with their in-laws or husbands for resources.
Vulnerability, as a consequence of gender and social disadvantage, manifests as psychological distress among mothers in Dhanusha. Screening tools incorporating physical symptoms of tension should be envisaged, along with interventions to address gender inequity, support marital relationships, and improve access to perinatal healthcare.
PMCID: PMC3943437  PMID: 24581309
Nepal; South Asia; Psychological distress; Postnatal depression; Perinatal common mental disorders; Maternal mental health; Rural health
9.  Predictors of psychological distress among postnatal mothers in rural Nepal: A cross-sectional community-based study☆ 
Journal of Affective Disorders  2014;156(100):76-86.
Perinatal common mental disorders are a major cause of disability among women and have consequences for children's growth and development. We aimed to identify factors associated with psychological distress, a proxy for common mental disorders, among mothers in rural Dhanusha, Nepal.
We used data from 9078 mothers who were screened for distress using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) around six weeks after delivery. We assessed the association between GHQ-12 score and socioeconomic, gender-based, cultural and reproductive health factors using a hierarchical analytical framework and multilevel linear regression models.
Using a threshold GHQ-12 score of ≥6 to indicate caseness, the prevalence of distress was 9.8% (886/9078). Factors that predicted distress were severe food insecurity (β 2.21 (95% confidence interval 1.43, 3.40)), having a multiple birth (2.28 (1.27, 4.10)), caesarean section (1.70 (0.29, 2.24)), perinatal health problems (1.58 (1.23, 2.02)), no schooling (1.37 (1.08, 1.73)), fewer assets (1.33 (1.10, 1.60)), five or more children (1.33 (1.09, 1.61)), poor or no antenatal care (1.31 (1.15, 1.48) p<0.001), having never had a son (1.31 (1.14, 1.49)), not staying in the parental home in the postnatal period (1.15 (1.02, 1.30)), having a husband with no schooling (1.17 (0.96, 1.43)) and lower maternal age (0.99 (0.97, 1.00)).
The study was cross-sectional and we were therefore unable to infer causality. Because data were not collected for some established predictors, including infant death, domestic violence and history of mental illness, we could not assess their associations with distress.
Socioeconomic disadvantage, gender inequality and poor reproductive health predict distress among mothers in Dhanusha. Maternal and child health programmes, as well as poverty-alleviation and educational interventions, may be beneficial for maternal mental health.
PMCID: PMC3969296  PMID: 24370265
Postnatal psychological distress; Postnatal depression; Common mental disorder; Nepal; Maternal mental health; Rural health
10.  Exploring the first delay: a qualitative study of home deliveries in Makwanpur district Nepal 
In many low-income countries women tend to deliver at home, and delays in receiving appropriate maternal care can be fatal. A contextual understanding of these delays is important if countries are to meet development targets for maternal health. We present qualitative research with women who delivered at home in rural Nepal, to gain a contemporary understanding of the context where we are testing the effectiveness of an intervention to increase institutional deliveries.
We purposively sampled women who had recently delivered at home and interviewed them to explore their reasons for home delivery. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic content analysis. We used the ‘delays’ model discussed in the literature to frame our analysis.
Usually a combination of factors prevented women from delivering in health institutions. Many women were aware of the benefits of institutional delivery yet their status in the home restricted their access to health facilities. Often they did not wish to bring shame on their family by going against their wishes, or through showing their body in a health institution. They often felt unable to demand the organisation of transportation because this may cause financial problems for their family. Some felt that government incentives were insufficient. Often, a lack of family support at the time of delivery meant that women delivered at home. Past bad experience, and poor quality health services, also prevented women from having an institutional delivery.
Formative research is important to develop an understanding of local context. Sociocultural issues, perceived accessibility of health services, and perceived quality of care were all important barriers preventing institutional delivery. Targeting one factor alone may not be effective in increasing institutional deliveries. Our intervention encourages communities to develop local responses to address the factors preventing institutional delivery through women’s groups and improved health facility management. We will monitor perceptions of health services over time to help us understand the effectiveness of the intervention.
PMCID: PMC3939637  PMID: 24576187
Formative; Context; Maternal; Newborn; Delay
11.  Drug-resistant tuberculosis in Mumbai, India: An agenda for operations research 
Operations research (OR) is well established in India and is also a prominent feature of the global and local agendas for tuberculosis (TB) control. India accounts for a quarter of the global burden of TB and of new cases. Multidrug-resistant TB is a significant problem in Mumbai, India’s most populous city, and there have been recent reports of totally resistant TB. Much thought has been given to the role of OR in addressing programmatic challenges, by both international partnerships and India’s Revised National TB Control Programme. We attempt to summarize the major challenges to TB control in Mumbai, with an emphasis on drug resistance. Specific challenges include diagnosis of TB and defining cure, detecting drug resistant TB, multiple sources of health care in the private, public and informal sectors, co-infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and a concurrent epidemic of non-communicable diseases, suboptimal prescribing practices, and infection control. We propose a local agenda for OR: modeling the effects of newer technologies, active case detection, and changes in timing of activities, and mapping hotspots and contact networks; modeling the effects of drug control, changing the balance of ambulatory and inpatient care, and adverse drug reactions; modeling the effects of integration of TB and HIV diagnosis and management, and preventive drug therapy; and modeling the effects of initiatives to improve infection control.
PMCID: PMC3836418  PMID: 24501697
Tuberculosis; Public health; Global health
12.  Risk of childhood undernutrition related to small-for-gestational age and preterm birth in low- and middle-income countries 
International journal of epidemiology  2013;42(5):10.1093/ije/dyt109.
Low- and middle-income countries continue to experience a large burden of stunting; 148 million children were estimated to be stunted, around 30–40% of all children in 2011. In many of these countries, foetal growth restriction (FGR) is common, as is subsequent growth faltering in the first 2 years. Although there is agreement that stunting involves both prenatal and postnatal growth failure, the extent to which FGR contributes to stunting and other indicators of nutritional status is uncertain.
Using extant longitudinal birth cohorts (n = 19) with data on birth-weight, gestational age and child anthropometry (12–60 months), we estimated study-specific and pooled risk estimates of stunting, wasting and underweight by small-for-gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth.
We grouped children according to four combinations of SGA and gestational age: adequate size-for-gestational age (AGA) and preterm; SGA and term; SGA and preterm; and AGA and term (the reference group). Relative to AGA and term, the OR (95% confidence interval) for stunting associated with AGA and preterm, SGA and term, and SGA and preterm was 1.93 (1.71, 2.18), 2.43 (2.22, 2.66) and 4.51 (3.42, 5.93), respectively. A similar magnitude of risk was also observed for wasting and underweight. Low birthweight was associated with 2.5–3.5-fold higher odds of wasting, stunting and underweight. The population attributable risk for overall SGA for outcomes of childhood stunting and wasting was 20% and 30%, respectively.
This analysis estimates that childhood undernutrition may have its origins in the foetal period, suggesting a need to intervene early, ideally during pregnancy, with interventions known to reduce FGR and preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3816349  PMID: 23920141
Foetal growth restriction; preterm birth; stunting; wasting; childhood
13.  Women’s groups practising participatory learning and action to improve maternal and newborn health in low-resource settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
Lancet  2013;381(9879):1736-1746.
Maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain high in many low-income and middle-income countries. Different approaches for the improvement of birth outcomes have been used in community-based interventions, with heterogeneous effects on survival. We assessed the effects of women’s groups practising participatory learning and action, compared with usual care, on birth outcomes in low-resource settings.
We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials undertaken in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, and Nepal in which the effects of women’s groups practising participatory learning and action were assessed to identify population-level predictors of effect on maternal mortality, neonatal mortality, and stillbirths. We also reviewed the cost-effectiveness of the women’s group intervention and estimated its potential effect at scale in Countdown countries.
Seven trials (119 428 births) met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses of all trials showed that exposure to women’s groups was associated with a 37% reduction in maternal mortality (odds ratio 0·63, 95% CI 0·32–0·94), a 23% reduction in neonatal mortality (0·77, 0·65–0·90), and a 9% non-significant reduction in stillbirths (0·91, 0·79–1·03), with high heterogeneity for maternal (I2=58·8%, p=0·024) and neonatal results (I2=64·7%, p=0·009). In the meta-regression analyses, the proportion of pregnant women in groups was linearly associated with reduction in both maternal and neonatal mortality (p=0·026 and p=0·011, respectively). A subgroup analysis of the four studies in which at least 30% of pregnant women participated in groups showed a 55% reduction in maternal mortality (0·45, 0·17–0·73) and a 33% reduction in neonatal mortality (0·67, 0·59–0·74). The intervention was cost effective by WHO standards and could save an estimated 283 000 newborn infants and 41 100 mothers per year if implemented in rural areas of 74 Countdown countries.
With the participation of at least a third of pregnant women and adequate population coverage, women’s groups practising participatory learning and action are a cost-effective strategy to improve maternal and neonatal survival in low-resource settings.
Wellcome Trust, Ammalife, and National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for Birmingham and the Black Country programme.
PMCID: PMC3797417  PMID: 23683640
14.  Effect of women’s groups and volunteer peer counselling on rates of mortality, morbidity, and health behaviours in mothers and children in rural Malawi (MaiMwana): a factorial, cluster-randomised controlled trial 
Lancet  2013;381(9879):1721-1735.
Women’s groups and health education by peer counsellors can improve the health of mothers and children. We assessed their effects on mortality and breastfeeding rates in rural Malawi.
We did a 2×2 factorial, cluster-randomised trial in 185 888 people in Mchinji district. 48 equal-sized clusters were randomly allocated to four groups with a computer-generated number sequence. 24 facilitators guided groups through a community action cycle to tackle maternal and child health problems. 72 trained volunteer peer counsellors made home visits at five timepoints during pregnancy and after birth to support breastfeeding and infant care. Primary outcomes for the women’s group intervention were maternal, perinatal, neonatal, and infant mortality rates (MMR, PMR, NMR, and IMR, respectively); and for the peer counselling were IMR and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rates. Analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered as ISRCTN06477126.
We monitored outcomes of 26 262 births between 2005 and 2009. In a factorial model adjusted only for clustering and the volunteer peer counselling intervention, in women’s group areas, for years 2 and 3, we noted non-significant decreases in NMR (odds ratio 0·93, 0·64–1·35) and MMR (0·54, 0·28–1·04). After adjustment for parity, socioeconomic quintile, and baseline measures, effects were larger for NMR (0·85, 0·59–1·22) and MMR (0·48, 0·26–0·91). Because of the interaction between the two interventions, a stratified analysis was done. For women’s groups, in adjusted analyses, MMR fell by 74% (0·26, 0·10–0·70), and NMR by 41% (0·59, 0·40–0·86) in areas with no peer counsellors, but there was no effect in areas with counsellors (1·09, 0·40–2·98, and 1·38, 0·75–2·54). Factorial analysis for the peer counselling intervention for years 1–3 showed a fall in IMR of 18% (0·82, 0·67–1·00) and an improvement in EBF rates (2·42, 1·48–3·96). The results of the stratified, adjusted analysis showed a 36% reduction in IMR (0·64, 0·48–0·85) but no effect on EBF (1·18, 0·63–2·25) in areas without women’s groups, and in areas with women’s groups there was no effect on IMR (1·05, 0·82–1·36) and an increase in EBF (5·02, 2·67–9·44) . The cost of women’s groups was US$114 per year of life lost (YLL) averted and that of peer counsellors was $33 per YLL averted, using stratified data from single intervention comparisons.
Community mobilisation through women’s groups and volunteer peer counsellor health education are methods to improve maternal and child health outcomes in poor rural populations in Africa.
Saving Newborn Lives, UK Department for International Development, and Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC3796349  PMID: 23683639
15.  Mortality risk in preterm and small-for-gestational-age infants in low-income and middle-income countries: a pooled country analysis 
Lancet  2013;382(9890):417-425.
Babies with low birthweight (<2500 g) are at increased risk of early mortality. However, low birthweight includes babies born preterm and with fetal growth restriction, and not all these infants have a birthweight less than 2500 g. We estimated the neonatal and infant mortality associated with these two characteristics in low-income and middle-income countries.
For this pooled analysis, we searched all available studies and identified 20 cohorts (providing data for 2 015 019 livebirths) from Asia, Africa, and Latin America that recorded data for birthweight, gestational age, and vital statistics through 28 days of life. Study dates ranged from 1982 through to 2010. We calculated relative risks (RR) and risk differences (RD) for mortality associated with preterm birth (<32 weeks, 32 weeks to <34 weeks, 34 weeks to <37 weeks), small-for-gestational-age (SGA; babies with birthweight in the lowest third percentile and between the third and tenth percentile of a US reference population), and preterm and SGA combinations.
Pooled overall RRs for preterm were 6·82 (95% CI 3·56–13·07) for neonatal mortality and 2·50 (1·48–4·22) for post-neonatal mortality. Pooled RRs for babies who were SGA (with birthweight in the lowest tenth percentile of the reference population) were 1·83 (95% CI 1·34–2·50) for neonatal mortality and 1·90 (1·32–2·73) for post-neonatal mortality. The neonatal mortality risk of babies who were both preterm and SGA was higher than that of babies with either characteristic alone (15·42; 9·11–26·12).
Many babies in low-income and middle-income countries are SGA. Preterm birth affects a smaller number of neonates than does SGA, but is associated with a higher mortality risk. The mortality risks associated with both characteristics extend beyond the neonatal period. Differentiation of the burden and risk of babies born preterm and SGA rather than with low birthweight could guide prevention and management strategies to speed progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of child mortality.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
PMCID: PMC3796350  PMID: 23746775
16.  Identifying priorities to improve maternal and child nutrition among the Khmu ethnic group, Laos: a formative study 
Maternal & child nutrition  2012;9(4):452-466.
Chronic malnutrition in children remains highly prevalent in Laos, particularly among ethnic minority groups. There is limited knowledge of specific nutrition practices among these groups. We explored nutritional status, cultural beliefs and practices of Laos’ Khmu ethnic group to inform interventions for undernutrition as part of a Primary Health Care (PHC) project. Mixed methods were used. For background, we disaggregated anthropometric and behavioural indicators from Laos’ Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. We then conducted eight focus group discussions and 33 semi-structured interviews with Khmu villagers and health care workers, exploring beliefs and practices related to nutrition.The setting was two rural districts in Luang Prabang province, in one of which the PHC project had been established for 3 years. There was a higher prevalence of stunting in the Khmu than in other groups. Disaggregation showed nutrition behaviours were associated with ethnicity, including exclusive breastfeeding. Villagers described strong adherence to post-partum food restrictions for women, while little change was described in intake during pregnancy. Most children were breastfed, although early introduction of pre-lacteal foods was noted in the non-PHC district. There was widespread variation in introduction and diversity of complementary foods. Guidance came predominantly from the community, with some input from health care workers. Interventions to address undernutrition in Khmu communities should deliver clear, consistent messages on optimum nutrition behaviours. Emphasis should be placed on dietary diversity for pregnant and post-partum mothers, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding and timely, appropriate complementary feeding. The impact of wider governmental policies on food security needs to be further assessed.
PMCID: PMC3496764  PMID: 22515273
beliefs; child feeding; community based; education; Laos; Khmu; maternal nutrition
17.  The associations of parity and maternal age with small-for-gestational-age, preterm, and neonatal and infant mortality: a meta-analysis 
BMC Public Health  2013;13(Suppl 3):S2.
Previous studies have reported on adverse neonatal outcomes associated with parity and maternal age. Many of these studies have relied on cross-sectional data, from which drawing causal inference is complex. We explore the associations between parity/maternal age and adverse neonatal outcomes using data from cohort studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
Data from 14 cohort studies were included. Parity (nulliparous, parity 1-2, parity ≥3) and maternal age (<18 years, 18-<35 years, ≥35 years) categories were matched with each other to create exposure categories, with those who are parity 1-2 and age 18-<35 years as the reference. Outcomes included small-for-gestational-age (SGA), preterm, neonatal and infant mortality. Adjusted odds ratios (aOR) were calculated per study and meta-analyzed.
Nulliparous, age <18 year women, compared with women who were parity 1-2 and age 18-<35 years had the highest odds of SGA (pooled adjusted OR: 1.80), preterm (pooled aOR: 1.52), neonatal mortality (pooled aOR: 2.07), and infant mortality (pooled aOR: 1.49). Increased odds were also noted for SGA and neonatal mortality for nulliparous/age 18-<35 years, preterm, neonatal, and infant mortality for parity ≥3/age 18-<35 years, and preterm and neonatal mortality for parity ≥3/≥35 years.
Nulliparous women <18 years of age have the highest odds of adverse neonatal outcomes. Family planning has traditionally been the least successful in addressing young age as a risk factor; a renewed focus must be placed on finding effective interventions that delay age at first birth. Higher odds of adverse outcomes are also seen among parity ≥3 / age ≥35 mothers, suggesting that reproductive health interventions need to address the entirety of a woman’s reproductive period.
Funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (810-2054) by a grant to the US Fund for UNICEF to support the activities of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group.
PMCID: PMC3847520  PMID: 24564800
18.  Intimate partner violence against women during and after pregnancy: a cross-sectional study in Mumbai slums 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:817.
At least one-third of women in India experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at some point in adulthood. Our objectives were to describe the prevalence of IPV during pregnancy and after delivery in an urban slum setting, to review its social determinants, and to explore its effects on maternal and newborn health.
We did a cross-sectional study nested within the data collection system for a concurrent trial. Through urban community surveillance, we identified births in 48 slum areas and interviewed mothers ~6 weeks later. After collecting information on demographic characteristics, socioeconomic indicators, and maternal and newborn care, we asked their opinions on the justifiability of IPV and on their experience of it in the last 12 months.
Of 2139 respondents, 35% (748) said that violence was justifiable if a woman disrespected her in-laws or argued with her husband, failed to provide good food, housework and childcare, or went out without permission. 318 (15%, 95% CI 13, 16%) reported IPV in the year that included pregnancy and the postpartum period. Physical IPV was reported by 247 (12%, 95% CI 10, 13%), sexual IPV by 35 (2%, 95% CI 1, 2%), and emotional IPV by 167 (8%, 95% CI 7, 9). 219 (69%) women said that the likelihood of IPV was either unaffected by or increased during maternity. IPV was more likely to be reported by women from poorer families and when husbands used alcohol. Although 18% of women who had suffered physical IPV sought clinical care for their injuries, seeking help from organizations outside the family to address IPV itself was rare. Women who reported IPV were more likely to have reported illness during pregnancy and use of modern methods of family planning. They were more than twice as likely to say that there were situations in which violence was justifiable (odds ratio 2.6, 95% CI 1.7, 3.4).
One in seven women suffered IPV during or shortly after pregnancy. The elements of the violent milieu are mutually reinforcing and need to be taken into account collectively in responding to both individual cases and framing public health initiatives.
PMCID: PMC3846679  PMID: 24015762
Intimate partner violence; Domestic violence; India; Mumbai; Maternal health; Slums
19.  Sickle Cell Anaemia in a Changing World 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001483.
David Osrin and Edward Fottrell comment on new research by Frédéric Piel and colleagues on the growing burden of sickle cell anemia, and discuss the need for changing policy and health services in response to epidemiologic transitions in child mortality.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
PMCID: PMC3712907  PMID: 23874163
20.  National and regional estimates of term and preterm babies born small for gestational age in 138 low-income and middle-income countries in 2010 
The Lancet. Global Health  2013;1(1):e26-e36.
National estimates for the numbers of babies born small for gestational age and the comorbidity with preterm birth are unavailable. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of term and preterm babies born small for gestational age (term-SGA and preterm-SGA), and the relation to low birthweight (<2500 g), in 138 countries of low and middle income in 2010.
Small for gestational age was defined as lower than the 10th centile for fetal growth from the 1991 US national reference population. Data from 22 birth cohort studies (14 low-income and middle-income countries) and from the WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health (23 countries) were used to model the prevalence of term-SGA births. Prevalence of preterm-SGA infants was calculated from meta-analyses.
In 2010, an estimated 32·4 million infants were born small for gestational age in low-income and middle-income countries (27% of livebirths), of whom 10·6 million infants were born at term and low birthweight. The prevalence of term-SGA babies ranged from 5·3% of livebirths in east Asia to 41·5% in south Asia, and the prevalence of preterm-SGA infants ranged from 1·2% in north Africa to 3·0% in southeast Asia. Of 18 million low-birthweight babies, 59% were term-SGA and 41% were preterm. Two-thirds of small-for-gestational-age infants were born in Asia (17·4 million in south Asia). Preterm-SGA babies totalled 2·8 million births in low-income and middle-income countries. Most small-for-gestational-age infants were born in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.
The burden of small-for-gestational-age births is very high in countries of low and middle income and is concentrated in south Asia. Implementation of effective interventions for babies born too small or too soon is an urgent priority to increase survival and reduce disability, stunting, and non-communicable diseases.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by a grant to the US Fund for UNICEF to support the activities of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG).
PMCID: PMC4221634  PMID: 25103583
21.  Community resource centres to improve the health of women and children in Mumbai slums: study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:132.
The trial addresses the general question of whether community resource centers run by a non-government organization improve the health of women and children in slums. The resource centers will be run by the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action, and the trial will evaluate their effects on a series of public health indicators. Each resource center will be located in a vulnerable Mumbai slum area and will serve as a base for salaried community workers, supervised by officers and coordinators, to organize the collection and dissemination of health information, provision of services, home visits to identify and counsel families at risk, referral of individuals and families to appropriate services and support for their access, meetings of community members and providers, and events and campaigns on health issues.
A cluster randomized controlled trial in which 20 urban slum areas with resource centers are compared with 20 control areas. Each cluster will contain approximately 600 households and randomized allocation will be in three blocked phases, of 12, 12 and 16 clusters. Any resident of an intervention cluster will be able to participate in the intervention, but the resource centers will target women and children, particularly women of reproductive age and children under 5.
The outcomes will be assessed through a household census after 2 years of resource center operations. The primary outcomes are unmet need for family planning in women aged 15 to 49 years, proportion of children under 5 years of age not fully immunized for their ages, and proportion of children under 5 years of age with weight for height less than 2 standard deviations below the median for age and sex. Secondary outcomes describe adolescent pregnancies, home deliveries, receipt of conditional cash transfers for institutional delivery, other childhood anthropometric indices, use of public sector health and nutrition services, indices of infant and young child feeding, and consultation for violence against women and children.
Trial registration
ISRCTN Register: ISRCTN56183183
Clinical Trials Registry of India: CTRI/2012/09/003004
PMCID: PMC3668259  PMID: 23782816
Public health; India; Mumbai; Urban health; Slums; Poverty
22.  Nutritional status of young children in Mumbai slums: a follow-up anthropometric study 
Nutrition Journal  2012;11:100.
Chronic childhood malnutrition remains common in India. As part of an initiative to improve maternal and child health in urban slums, we collected anthropometric data from a sample of children followed up from birth. We described the proportions of underweight, stunting, and wasting in young children, and examined their relationships with age.
We used two linked datasets: one based on institutional birth weight records for 17 318 infants, collected prospectively, and one based on follow-up of a subsample of 1941 children under five, collected in early 2010.
Mean birth weight was 2736 g (SD 530 g), with a low birth weight (<2500 g) proportion of 22%. 21% of infants had low weight for age standard deviation (z) scores at birth (<−2 SD). At follow-up, 35% of young children had low weight for age, 17% low weight for height, and 47% low height for age. Downward change in weight for age was greater in children who had been born with higher z scores.
Our data support the idea that much of growth faltering was explained by faltering in height for age, rather than by wasting. Stunting appeared to be established early and the subsequent decline in height for age was limited. Our findings suggest a focus on a younger age-group than the children over the age of three who are prioritized by existing support systems.
The trial during which the birth weight data were collected was funded by the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth (Centre for Child Health and Nutrition), and The Wellcome Trust (081052/Z/06/Z). Subsequent collection, analysis and development of the manuscript was funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award: Population Science of Maternal and Child Survival (085417ma/Z/08/Z). D Osrin is funded by The Wellcome Trust (091561/Z/10/Z).
PMCID: PMC3546020  PMID: 23173787
23.  MaiMwana women’s groups: a community mobilisation intervention to improve mother and child health and reduce mortality in rural Malawi 
This article presents a detailed description of a community mobilization intervention involving women’s groups in Mchinji District, Malawi. The intervention was implemented between 2005 and 2010.
The intervention aims to build the capacities of communities to take control of the mother and child health issues that affect them. To achieve this it comprises trained local female facilitators establishing groups and using a manual, participatory rural appraisal tools and picture cards to guide them through a community action cycle to identify and implement solutions to mother and child health problems. Significant resource inputs include salaries for facilitators and supervisors, and training, equipment and materials to support their work with groups.
It is hypothesized that the groups will catalyse community collective action to address mother and child health issues and improve the health and reduce the mortality of mothers and children. Their impact, implementation and cost-effectiveness have been rigorously evaluated through a randomized controlled trial design. The results of these evaluations will be reported in 2011.
PMCID: PMC3345770  PMID: 21977831
24.  Linking families and facilities for care at birth: What works to avert intrapartum-related deaths? 
Delays in receiving effective care during labor and at birth may be fatal for the mother and fetus, contributing to 2 million annual intrapartum stillbirths and intrapartum-related neonatal deaths each year.
We present a systematic review of strategies to link families and facilities, including community mobilization, financial incentives, emergency referral and transport systems, prenatal risk screening, and maternity waiting homes.
There is moderate quality evidence that community mobilization with high levels of community engagement can increase institutional births and significantly reduce perinatal and early neonatal mortality. Meta-analysis showed a doubling of skilled birth attendance and a 35% reduction in early neonatal mortality. However, no data are available on intrapartum-specific outcomes. Evidence is limited, but promising, that financial incentive schemes and community referral/transport systems may increase rates of skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care utilization; however, impact on mortality is unknown. Current evidence for maternity waiting homes and risk screening is low quality.
Empowering communities is an important strategy to reduce the large burden of intrapartum complications. Innovations are needed to bring the poor closer to obstetric care, such as financial incentives and cell phone technology. New questions need to be asked of “old” strategies such as risk screening and maternity waiting homes. The effect of all of these strategies on maternal and perinatal mortality, particularly intrapartum-related outcomes, requires further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3428847  PMID: 19815201
Asphyxia neonatorum; Birth asphyxia; Cash transfers; Community-based health insurance; Community mobilization; Community transport system; Demand for obstetric care; Hypoxia; Maternity waiting homes stillbirth; Neonatal mortality; Risk screening; Vouchers

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