Project Lead(s): Eve Nakabembe
Uganda’s maternal mortality rate has hardly changed over the past ten years, with a maternal mortality ratio of 438 per 100,000 live births.
The most vulnerable of pregnant mothers and newborns live in the rural communities, and the risks to morbidity and mortality are compounded by the known three delays: at home, in transit and in health facilities.
Despite the widespread use of modern technology in communication in many sectors (such as business and education), it has not been maximized in the health sector, especially in linking health facilities to the communities they serve.
The aim of the project was to bridge the communication gap between vulnerable mothers in the communities and health service providers in the facilities, using modern cell phone and information technology.
Specific objectives of the project were:
- To install and activate four toll-free hotlines in four rural Ugandan hospitals, where vulnerable mothers can reach the health facilities for care and advice, especially in the case of emergencies
- To establish a functional communication system among health workers within the same health facility using mobile cell phones
- To set up a functional emergency communication system among health facilities within the same catchment area, using the business caller user groups model.
Pregnant mothers, their partners, and other key community members (including Village Health Teams, traditional birth attendants and local leaders) were the target groups in the communities. .
Over a one-year period, at least 6,180 emergency phone calls regarding pregnancy and childbirth complications were made to the health facilities via the four hotlines, and an average of 72 health workers across the four hospitals were linked with the caller user groups.
It was estimated that, through project initiatives, 2,472 newborns and mothers with life-threatening complications were able to receive timely care and advice by calling hospitals that were able to mobilize their meagre resources prior to arrival of patients.
Hospital records show that mothers who called before coming to the hospital found the necessary emergency staff in place to assist them in a timely manner.
There was also increased community participation by local leaders and Village Health Teams, as they became the champions of change in advocating for use of the toll-free line by the community.
This initiative has been identified by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Uganda as a potential scale-up initiative through the MOH’s ‘Maternal Child Health Cluster’ group, opening the door for all suitable hospitals in Uganda to participate in this program.
During the duration of the grant, the project team manager, Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her leadership and innovations for maternal/newborn health in East Africa.
The team plans on applying for Phase II Transition To Scale funding, to scale up the project to other jurisdictions and hospitals across Uganda and East Africa.