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1.  Care for perinatal illness in rural Nepal: a descriptive study with cross-sectional and qualitative components 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-3-3
PMCID: PMC194728  PMID: 12932300
Perinatal illness; health care seeking practices; Nepal; Safe Motherhood; Traditional Healer; Traditional Birth Attendant.
2.  Global plagues and the Global Fund: Challenges in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria 
Background
Although a grossly disproportionate burden of disease from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria remains in the Global South, these infectious diseases have finally risen to the top of the international agenda in recent years. Ideal strategies for combating these diseases must balance the advantages and disadvantages of 'vertical' disease control programs and 'horizontal' capacity-building approaches.
Discussion
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) represents an important step forward in the struggle against these pathogens. While its goals are laudable, significant barriers persist. Most significant is the pitiful lack of funds committed by world governments, particularly those of the very G8 countries whose discussions gave rise to the Fund. A drastic scaling up of resources is the first clear requirement for the GFATM to live up to the international community's lofty intentions. A directly related issue is that of maintaining a strong commitment to the treatment of the three diseases along with traditional prevention approaches, with the ensuing debates over providing affordable access to medications in the face of the pharmaceutical industry's vigorous protection of patent rights.
Summary
At this early point in the Fund's history, it remains to be seen how these issues will be resolved at the programming level. Nevertheless, it is clear that significant structural changes are required in such domains as global spending priorities, debt relief, trade policy, and corporate responsibility. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are global problems borne of gross socioeconomic inequality, and their solutions require correspondingly geopolitical solutions.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-3-2
PMCID: PMC155543  PMID: 12667262
3.  An Australian Aboriginal birth cohort: a unique resource for a life course study of an Indigenous population. A study protocol 
Background
The global rise of Type 2 diabetes and its complications has drawn attention to the burden of non-communicable diseases on populations undergoing epidemiological transition. The life course approach of a birth cohort has the potential to increase our understanding of the development of these chronic diseases. In 1987 we sought to establish an Australian Indigenous birth cohort to be used as a resource for descriptive and analytical studies with particular attention on non-communicable diseases. The focus of this report is the methodology of recruiting and following-up an Aboriginal birth cohort of mobile subjects belonging to diverse cultural and language groups living in a large sparsely populated area in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia.
Methods
A prospective longitudinal study of Aboriginal singletons born at the Royal Darwin Hospital 1987–1990, with second wave cross-sectional follow-up examination of subjects 1998–2001 in over 70 different locations. A multiphase protocol was used to locate and collect data on 686 subjects with different approaches for urban and rural children. Manual chart audits, faxes to remote communities, death registries and a full time subject locator with past experience of Aboriginal communities were all used.
Discussion
The successful recruitment of 686 Indigenous subjects followed up 14 years later with vital status determined for 95% of subjects and examination of 86% shows an Indigenous birth cohort can be established in an environment with geographic, cultural and climatic challenges. The high rates of recruitment and follow up indicate there were effective strategies of follow-up in a supportive population.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-3-1
PMCID: PMC152651  PMID: 12659639

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