In the US, birth can be expected to be a safe, happy occasion. However, in many developing countries, pregnancy and birth are the most dangerous things a woman can do. Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth with 99% of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries. In fact, a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death (the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause) in a developing nation is almost 30 times the risk in developed countries. Further, Africa is only home to 15% of the world’s population, but it is where over half of the maternal deaths occur.
West Africa has the highest maternal mortality rates (up to 60% of the total maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa). We are focusing where there is most need, and we have a long-term partnership with Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) aimed at developing interventions for maternal and neonatal health. Each year there are nearly 12,000 births at KBTH (over 5 times the volume of most hospitals in high-income countries). Moreover, given low clinician-to-population ratios in sub-Saharan African countries, one caregiver may responsible for caring for multiple laboring women at once. This intense setting is not uncommon in these countries as their populations are shifting at a significant rate from rural to urban centers.
Causes of Maternal Death in Developing Countries
KBTH Maternity Block
The key to prevention is awareness of something going wrong while there is still time to intervene. By working with and exchanging ideas collaboratively with our Ghanaian partners, we’ve found that the rates of maternal death can be dramatically reduced in such settings through more effective monitoring of mothers with hypertension during or around the time of labor.
Although the prevalence of hypertension during pregnancy in the US is similar to that in Ghana, a pregnancy complicated with hypertension in the US rarely results in maternal death due to adequate staffing as well as technologies that enable caregivers to recognize and treat it in a timely fashion. Hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, however, must operate in a low-resource environment where staff must rely on time-consuming manual methods to monitor maternal and fetal vital signs. This is particularly problematic given the critically understaffed environment of these hospitals.
Our efforts have so far allowed us to identify technologies that are uniquely suited to address this area in critical need of innovation. Through a partnership with South African based company (and Continental distributor), Batswadi we have developed a plan which we believe will create a setting in which caregivers are better able to monitor, recognize and treat complications in a timely fashion, thus saving mother and infant lives.
Our approach utilizes small, durable, wireless maternal-fetal monitoring technologies as well as local cellular networks to alert clinicians of patients in need of emergent care. This envisioned solution will not only help clinicians treat patients with complications, but by enhancing the efficiency of the workplace it will also enhance the care for all patients. Importantly, this approach is being designed to be highly sustainable and scalable such that success at KBTH will allow for more seamless implementation to other health centers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our goal is to raise $10,000 of seed funding to help develop and establish two innovative patient units at KBTH. Your donation will lay the foundation for a much needed solution that will save women’s lives and ensure a healthy start for young families.
Donors who donate $100 or more will receive a one of a kind painting of their choice (see the gallery below). These paintings are crafted by local artists in Ghana, and will be reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis..