Dr. Tuan Tran (PhD) is the founder and director of the Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD) in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Mother’s Day, celebrated internationally, reminds us of the inestimable social contribution that women make to the world as they care for their fetuses, newborns, infants and young children. Most mothers are living in the world’s resource-constrained low- and lower-middle income countries. Many are experiencing crowded housing; lack of access to healthcare, lack of clean water and sanitation; food insecurity and exposure to gender-based violence while caring for their children. In these settings, micronutrient deficiencies and mental disorders are also more common in mothers, and this also affects their children’s health and development.
In Vietnam, we have shown that about one in three pregnant women and mothers of young children in rural provinces are experiencing a common mental disorder. Those who cope with these problems are less able to respond to healthcare recommendations, including reminders about taking essential recommended micronutrient supplements in pregnancy. The early cognitive, motor, social and emotional development of their babies is compromised.
Grand Challenges Canada is supporting collaboration between the Research and Training Centre for Community Development in Hanoi and Monash, and Melbourne Universities in Australia, to address these problems. This two-year project aims to reduce the common depression and anxiety, and to improve nutritional status among pregnant women and women who have recently given birth; to improve the health and cognitive, social-emotional and motor development of their young children; and to raise awareness and community support against domestic violence. We are developing an integrated program called “Learning clubs for women’s health and infant development in rural Vietnam” where, from pregnancy until nine months after giving birth, women and their infants participate in a psycho-educational program.
Starting in October 2013, we developed a program of 24 sessions within five modules. Each session runs from 60 to 120 minutes. Referencing packages from international sources, such as UNICEF and WHO, were identified and used for each session, and are now being replaced by local-context video clips and posters. We organized two meetings with the provincial Women’s Union to review their capacity, the programs they are working with and the capacity of community Women’s Union. We looked at the gaps for the project to fill, discussed the most optimal way to organize the Learning Clubs and launched a selection of key facilitators for the Learning Club operation.
The research team (Tuan Tran, Thach D. Tran, Ha Tran, Jane Fisher) also had two visits to three communes where the project will be implemented, and met with the heads of the community Women’s Union and of the Community Health Clinics. Vietnamese women in a rural province found it very relevant to their needs and circumstances, and we learned that it can be implemented with groups using role-play and shared problem-solving approaches.
From July 2014 on, Learning Clubs will start to offer sessions to about 900 participants, including pregnant women, parents of children younger than 24 months and other caregivers/family members.
Offering a structured, universal program combining information, learning activities and social support will improve the lives of many mothers in Vietnam.