Access to emergency obstetrics care critical to curbing maternal mortality, say experts
To curb the high rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria and contribute to global efforts by generating closer-to-reality assessments of geographic access gaps to critical maternal health services, a project by OnTime Consortium has created a dashboard that offers a leeway for expectant mothers in an emergency situation.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day totaling 282,000 deaths yearly. The burden is significantly high in Africa, with Nigeria alone contributing 82,000.
At a stakeholders meeting with healthcare practitioners in partnership with Google, Associate Professor, Maternal and Newborn Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Dr. Aduragbemi Banke-Thomas, who is the principal investigator and project lead, said that prompt access to critical maternal health services otherwise referred to as Emergency Obstetrics Care (EmOC) provided by skilled health personnel reduces maternal deaths amongst women who reach health facilities by 15-50 per cent and intra-partum stillbirths by 45-75 per cent.
“OnTime project, as we call it ‘Tackling in transit delays for mothers in emergency’, is essentially our way of bringing technology to support generational, closer-to-reality evidence, travel time and accessibility to care for pregnant women.
“We are doing this in partnership with Google, who have the largest repository of travel time data, so every time anyone puts on their phones and inputs the location of where they are headed to, Google is capturing that data. So we are using that big data to be able to develop something quite innovative that can support policy makers in planning the location of critical health services, like emergency care for pregnant women,” he said. Banke-Thomas noted that in Nigeria, a high proportion of maternal deaths occur while women are on their way to health facilities for care.
“In Lagos, recent research has shown that 60 per cent of maternal deaths occurred in pregnant women who travelled less than 10 kilometres directly from their places of abode to hospitals where they received care.
“For pregnant women who were referred, distance of 25 kilometres and travel time of more than 10 minutes were significantly associated with maternal death as research evidence shows that even 10 minutes of travel for a pregnant woman in an emergency doubles the odds of her baby being born dead, otherwise known as stillbirth.
“What we intend to do going forward is to see how to develop this digital dashboard beyond what it is right now. We want to be able to capture and incorporate other services apart from the Caesarian Section, which is what we’ve looked at now and these include blood transfusion, assisted vaginal delivery as packages of care services that have limited accessibility to pregnant women. All of those are things we want to incorporate into the dashboard in the future,” he added.
Speaking at the stakeholders’ engagement, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, noted that the results were very attractive and important to the Ministry of Health.
“We see it from two perspectives, which is the immediate utilisation of the data because we don’t overnight have facilities to cater for pregnant women. But until we get there, we need to be able to look after our emergencies whether they are obstetrics from where they are to where they have to be,” he said.