Each day, over 6,500 newborns and nearly 800 pregnant and postpartum women die from complications globally, according to data collected in 2020 by UNICEF. In order to help combat these sobering statistics, researchers and staff at the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH) are forging new partnerships in order to target the healthcare needs of pregnant and postpartum women and their children.

The Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Working Group mobilizes individuals across the University who work on maternal, newborn and/or child health research, and is looking to further expand its reach by welcoming interested campus partners to address these complex health challenges. Its goal is to generate interdisciplinary collaborations and to inspire advancements within the South Bend community and around the world to reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality.

The MNCH Working Group is one of EIGH’s several strategic and ongoing efforts to improve the health and well-being of mothers, newborns, and children. “It is our goal that these collaborations will make a difference in the lives of women and their children by improving access to maternal health information and by providing decision-making support tools,” said Yenupini Joyce Adams, Kellogg Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of the practice for both the Eck Institute for Global Health and Keough School of Global Affairs.

Adams, who is leading EIGH’s MNCH work, has garnered funding from Kellogg's Ford Program in Human Development and Solidarity to research postpartum care. Through this, she has developed the Focused Postpartum Care (Focused-PPC) model, which recognizes the serious complications that can occur during the postpartum period.

“Many women do not receive adequate postpartum education, and are therefore unable to recognize the warning signs of infection, depression, hemorrhaging, or other complications,” Adams explained.

Adams has completed a Focused-PPC group postpartum care model in Ghana, which provided integrated postpartum care, education, and support to women after the birth of their children for up to 12 months after delivery. Women enrolled in Focused-PPC experienced less stress, demonstrated better knowledge of good nutrition and were more likely to eat healthy meals than those receiving usual care. She is working on a Focused-PPC model in the South Bend community.

The MNCH team is also working with community, national, and global partners to organize events aimed at improving maternal and child health standards.

The EIGH hosted a maternal mental health event along with two community partners in the Spring of 2023; the St Joseph County Department of Health and Beacon Community Impact. The event offered continuing education to healthcare providers. It reinforced the need for advanced detection and treatment methods to address depression and anxiety during the perinatal period, and it offered practical resources to frontline healthcare professionals.

The MNCH team at the EIGH also launched a speaker series during the spring of 2023, featuring Patience Afulani, assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Upcoming speakers in the MNCH speaker series will advance awareness for local and global maternal health-related issues that disproportionately impact under-resourced communities. The schedule will be available on the Eck Institute for Global Health website at globalhealth.nd.edu/events.

Dr. Bernard Nahlen, professor of biological sciences and director of the Eck Institute for Global Health, is optimistic about the interdisciplinary collaborations that will grow from the MNCH Working Group. “Creating campus and community partners who are passionate about MNCH research will accelerate our impact in low- and middle-income communities with healthcare disparities,” Nahlen said. He added, “The MNCH Working Group is elevating the health and well-being of mothers and their children as a priority. I welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved, or who has questions regarding MNCH to reach out to us.”

To join the EIGH’s MNCH Working Group, please complete this form.

 

This story originally appeared at globalhealth.nd.edu.