Promundo | Communications Officer, Program Associate
“To be frank, I was going through a process when my wife was pregnant. A process of finding the true meaning of being a father.”
The old trope of a man nervously pacing the hospital’s waiting area, wringing his hands, while his wife labors in a private back room is reserved for old movies and nostalgia, right? That may not be true, according to State of the World’s Fathers, the world’s first report to provide a global view of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving.
Even before the delivery room, some men are missing out on the chance to be involved. While more than 80% of fathers in Cambodia, the Maldives and Rwanda were present at a pre-natal check up for their youngest child, less than 20% of fathers in Burundi, Pakistan and Zambia made the trip. Traditional expectations of what it means to be a man – and a woman – alongside sometimes unsupportive, or unprepared health systems and restrictive policies, set up barriers to men’s full participation in maternal, newborn and child health.
The Roadmap for Health, Measurement and Accountability, Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health (MA4Health).
We recently gathered with global leaders to endorse The Roadmap for Health Measurement and Accountability and the Five-Point Call to Action at the Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health Summit. Convened by USAID, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, the Summit emphasized the need for systematic measurement of health data, collaborative partnerships, and shared purpose and responsibility among health professionals. The roadmap, along with the commitment of global leaders, is meant to serve as a platform for collaboration on health measurement as we move into the post-2015 era.
The roadmap and call to action are quite timely. Although we have made great strides, the health data agenda is unfinished. Limited access to data and usability of data both remain significant challenges to improving measurement and accountability for health. Donors, implementers, and governments all need accessible and usable data, yet they all have varying needs and capacities. As Jon Schwabish, Senior Economist at the Urban Institute and Policyviz.com, put it, we need more “human readable” data. Usable data should be available to those who need it, when they need it, and where they need it.
Source: The Flying Doctors Photo Collection, 2014. Rural Road Rescue.
How can we improve health and lower the number of preventable deaths in Africa?
In the 2015 Gates Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates predicted that better health “will be driven by innovation in technology—ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets—and by innovations that help deliver those things to more people.”
I agree: The potential for new technology to revolutionize and disrupt current models of healthcare delivery is enormous. However, from my experience working in the medical field in Africa, I know that existing healthcare tools, if better utilized, could start saving lives there today. These may not be as thrilling as the latest app or gadget, but they have enormous potential if used correctly. In its own way, that’s pretty exciting.
From the cover of GHSP: A BlueStar social franchisee provider in Senegal talks with prospective clients about service offerings on opening day. Global franchisors MSI and PSI have rapidly scaled their family planning social franchising programs in recent years. Credit: Nils Elzenga/Marie Stopes International.
Social franchising organizes small, independent health care businesses into quality-assured networks. It leverages the vast resources of private-sector health facilities in low- and middle-income countries to expand access to and quality of services by building facilities’ capacity to deliver important yet underprovided services, such as inserting and removing implants and IUDs.
Two landmark articles published in the newest issue of GHSP showcase the accomplishments made by Marie Stopes International (MSI) and Population Services International (PSI), two of the largest global franchisor entities. Sarah Thurston and colleagues from MSI and PSI report on their social franchising footprint between 2013 and 2014. In just one year, the total couple-years of protection (CYPs) delivered by the two organizations combined grew by a remarkable 25%—from 8.6 million to 10.8 million. Reporting on detailed results from MSI’s program, Munroe, Hayes, and Taft describe many other positive accomplishments, including reaching a high proportion of young women aged 15–24 and low-income women living on under US$2.50/day. In addition, a very high proportion of MSI social franchising clients (68%) chose to use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), confirming findings reported by Curry et al. in the previous GHSP issue that LARCs can be delivered successfully in many settings.
During a Facebook Q&A chat coinciding with the release, Dr. Marlene Temmerman, WHO Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained that among the most substantial updates in the latest MEC edition are the addition of four new contraceptive methods and the relaxed recommendations on use of progestin-only pills and implants by breastfeeding women.
The four new methods added to the fifth MEC edition are:
Subcutaneous DMPA (follows current MEC recommendations for intramuscular DMPA)
Sino-implant (II) (follows current MEC recommendations for levonorgestrel implants)
Ulipristal acetate (UPA) emergency contraceptive pills (follows current MEC recommendations for levonorgestrel and combined oral contraceptives used as emergency contraception, except for breastfeeding women the MEC category is 2 for UPA instead of 1; category 2 means that the advantages of using the method generally outweigh the risks while category 1 indicates there is no restriction on use of the method)
Progesterone-releasing vaginal ring (the previous MEC edition included recommendations only for the combined contraceptive vaginal ring)
The change that is getting the most buzz in the global health field though is the increased contraceptive options for breastfeeding women under six weeks postpartum. In the previous edition of the MEC, generally the only reversible contraceptives that such women could use were barriers methods and the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). Now, WHO recommends that breastfeeding women under 6 weeks postpartum can also generally use progestin-only pills and implants (MEC category 2; advantages of using the method generally outweigh the risks). The change brings the WHO recommendations more in line with those from other normative bodies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
John Snow Inc. (JSI) | Sr. Technical Advisor, Immunization
A no-missed-opportunities approach recognizes that every service contact presents an opportunity to comprehensively address women’s and children's health needs. Credit: Chelsea Cooper, MCHIP
When Lorpu*, a mother in Liberia, brought her baby to a clinic to receive routine immunizations, she was also counseled about family planning and offered a contraceptive method. Lorpu expressed relief about having received same-day provision of both family planning and immunization services: “When I go for [my child’s] vaccine, I can also get family planning. I don’t have to leave and come back.”
Lorpu received these integrated services as part of a pilot program in Liberia implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) predecessor flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. In participating clinics, women who brought their infants for routine immunization services were provided brief messages about family planning by the vaccinator and offered a referral for same-day services. This approach, now used by MCHIP’s successor program, the flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), has led to substantial increases in family planning uptake, and women have expressed positive feedback about the convenience of having access to both family planning and immunization services during the same visit.
IntraHealth International | Technical Advisor, HRH and Knowledge Management
I am a visual learner. Maps, pictures, and graphs instantly engage me. The simpler the image, the more appealing it is. Tools like infographics are helpful to learners like me who need more than words on a page to commit new ideas to memory.
Whether it’s a soccer game or a board game, you’re much more invested in the outcome if you’re part of the game. It’s the same for global health projects, where the inclusion of community stakeholders leads to greater engagement and contributes to the overall success of interventions.
Participatory approaches are used to work with community members and key stakeholders. By using a bottom-up approach, participatory methods create a collaborative environment where knowledge can be captured and exchanged among those who have a stake in the program or intervention. Working with and engaging community members and key stakeholders, such as local governments, community leaders, and NGOs, throughout the life of the project helps build community ownership, empowers communities, and facilitates sustainability.
IntraHealth International | Technical Advisor, HRH and Knowledge Management
Improving health information systems in West Africa ensures that the right information goes to the right users at the right time. Photo courtesy of Amanda Puckett.
The need for stronger health information systems and disease surveillance has always been an issue in West Africa, but for me and others in global public health, Ebola forced the issue.
The ongoing outbreak—marked early by a lack of information on transmission and case notification, and severely disrupted health services—has shed light on grave weaknesses in the health systems in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
These weaknesses contributed to the spread of the disease and the loss of more than 11,100 lives.
Today, mPowering Frontline Health Workers (mPowering) announces the launch of ORB, an online content platform that will play a major role in improving the performance of hundreds of thousands of frontline health workers.
ORB is the first comprehensive online library of high quality, mobile-optimized, openly licensed training materials for frontline health workers. Through relevant, timely training materials and information, ORB helps frontline workers access the knowledge they need to transform health outcomes for millions of women and children.