I’m flying out in about 14 hours to New York, then Istanbul, then Addis Ababa to do research on maternal health in Ethiopia this summer. The last four weeks of medical school were quite a grind and I’ve barely recovered from our final exam, so it certainly hasn’t hit me yet that I’ll be spending the next few weeks on my own in a completely new culture. I’ve been looking forward to this project for months now, and I can’t believe it’s finally here.
OHSU has established a partnership with Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Gimbie, Ethiopia, and is working to improve maternal health outcomes in a country where a woman has a 1 in 27 chance of dying in childbirth (for the record, that statistic is roughly 1 in 8,000 in the developing world–maternal morbidity and mortality is one of the starkest and most persistent health disparities we face). The collaboration is still young, but so far OHSU staff from several disciplines have trained Ethiopian providers to perform pelvic prolapse surgeries and helped outline a curriculum for midwifery training. This will grow into a sustainable, collaborative initiative and will hopefully be a model (the first model, really) for OHSU’s long-term investment in global health.
Last year, two medical students traveled to Gimbie and did a community-based research project surveying rural women on their reproductive and maternal health care practices, attitudes, and needs. I’m planning to build on that baseline data and conduct needs assessment research with various health care providers (nurses, community health workers, traditional birth attendants, etc.) on maternal health care delivery. Since this partnership with Gimbie is still new, we basically just want to survey local capacity: who is providing care in the formal sector and in the community? what is the interplay between government, private ventures, and NGOs doing women’s health work here? how are women organizing around maternal health? what is providers’ training like? what are the standard protocols and health care system structures? what do providers identify as areas for improvement? Hopefully this big-picture data will allow us to see exactly where we can target future initiatives and help build local health systems to improve the quality of care and meet women’s needs.
To learn more about OHSU’s partnership with Gimbie, click here. The stakeholders I’ve met both in Portland and in Gimbie are really dedicated to this collaboration, and I’m happy to be involved in a project that will lay the groundwork for long-term efforts to promote health equity. I hope you stay tuned for my musings on global health and updates from the field!