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Mother looks at her new born baby.

UM global public health research partnership contributes to saving mothers and newborns in India

Initiative led by the government of Uttar Pradesh, India with investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will improve newborn and maternal outcomes

April 26, 2022 — 

When University of Manitoba researchers began to work in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in 2014, about 45 out of every 1,000 babies died within the first month of life. With investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the researchers were able to get to work on building partnerships to improve maternal and newborn health.

Today, with a new transformational investment of $87 million USD over five years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership between the UM Institute for Global Public Health and the Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP) through the Uttar Pradesh Technical Support Unit (UP TSU) can continue to help GoUP drive down maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the region. This is achieved by working with local governments and other academic and development partners to strengthen health systems, to develop healthcare mentors and policies. All of which will continue to improve Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child Health and Nutrition (RMCHN).

Dr. James Blanchard, executive director of the Institute for Global Public Health in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at UM, believes all women and children deserve the same health opportunities that many in Canada take for granted.

“Each year there are over 5.5 million babies born in Uttar Pradesh, and so improving the outcomes for mothers and their newborns and children in that state is one of the most important public health initiatives in India and globally,” he says.

In order to improve survival rates, programs like nurse mentoring and home visits where new mothers learn ways to properly feed their newborns from UP TSU-trained nurses can be life-changing.

For Vandana Singh, a nurse at DCH Manjhanpur, the continuous mentoring support she received through the program helped ensure she and other staff nurses were able to manage maternal and neonatal issues at the facility.

“This has increased my confidence in managing maternity complications independently,” she says.

Singh and other UP TSU-trained midwives and frontline workers are also able to support new mothers in their own homes by performing regular assessments and educating mothers on newborn care. The mentoring programs initially designed and supported through the partnership between the UM team and the Government of Uttar Pradesh is now being funded and managed by the government of Uttar Pradesh across the state. It has improved the overall quality of care in health care facilities and communities.

Long serving doctors are noting the difference as well, not only in the improvement of clinical care from the hospital staff, but also in the availability and quality of equipment and other resources within the health care facilities.

This “has led to optimum functioning of the facility, thus serving the community with the right kind of services at the right time, resulting in a positive and safe birthing experience,” says Dr. Ravindra Singh, Rtd., the chief medical superintendent at the District Women’s Hospital in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh.

All lives have equal value is the driving force behind the investment decisions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Advanced programming, training and policies guided by GoUP through UP TSU and supported by UM researchers that prioritize the health of pregnant women and their children have led to the decrease of neonatal mortality rates to 36 per 1,000 live births in 2019. This forms the basis for this most recent investment in the ongoing partnership with the UM and the Government of Uttar Pradesh.

“With this new investment, we will be supporting the government in scaling up critical initiatives across the state and optimizing programs at the community level, within health facilities and through health systems strengthening,” says Dr. Marissa Becker, UM associate professor, Department of Community Health Sciences and director of technical collaborations at the Institute for Global Public Health.

View the video to see the women and children in Uttar Pradesh that are impacted by this partnership.

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Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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