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Americares Launches Respectful Care Program

  • October 22, 2020
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • An expectant mother visits the Sengerema Hospital in Sengerema district, Mwanza region, Tanzania for prenatal care. Photo by Frank Kimaro/Americares.

Stamford, Conn. Oct. 22, 2020 – Americares is launching a ground-breaking program to promote respectful maternal care practices at health facilities in Liberia and Tanzania and increase the number of expectant mothers and children utilizing health services.

Globally nearly 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth each year—mostly of preventable causes in low-resource settings, according to the World Health Organization. About two-thirds of the estimated global maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Americares Community Partnerships for Respectful Care Program aims to contribute to a reduction in mortality and morbidity for women and children in Liberia and Tanzania over the next five years by integrating respectful care practices into existing services and empowering women to seek essential services. An estimated 1.2 million women of reproductive age and children under 5 in Mwanza, Mara and Shinyanga regions of Tanzania and 100,000 women and children in Montserrado County, Liberia, are expected to benefit over the next five years.

An expectant mother visits the Sengerema Hospital in Sengerema district, Mwanza region, Tanzania for prenatal care. Photo by Frank Kimaro/Americares.
An expectant mother visits the Sengerema Hospital in Sengerema district, Mwanza region, Tanzania for prenatal care. Photo by Frank Kimaro/Americares.

“Disrespect and abuse during pregnancy and childbirth significantly decreases a woman’s likelihood of utilizing health services,” said David Prettyman, who is leading the Americares Community Partnerships for Respectful Care Program. “It is increasingly recognized as a major barrier to care, but, until now, few projects have comprehensively addressed the root causes of disrespect and abuse or developed practical, evidence-based solutions. Under this new project Americares will work alongside health care facilities and communities to ensure that respectful, quality health services are both available and accessible.”

Americares, a health-focused relief and development organization, will mentor health workers in at least a dozen private, faith-based health facilities in each country to improve their people-centered skills. They will learn how to counsel women and families on their right to respectful care and encourage women to deliver with a skilled attendant as well as seek family planning services, post-natal care, nutrition counseling and other services. In addition, health center staff will receive training in managing complications during pregnancy and childbirth. At the community level, the program will work to elevate the profile of health providers, increase women’s knowledge and awareness of available health services and work with local leaders to break down social barriers to change.

A 2010 U.S. Agency for International Development report found that women around the world are increasingly at risk of mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth, including physical and verbal abuse, stigmatization, discrimination, non‐consented care, use of force during procedures, detention in facilities for non-payment, abandonment and neglect by health workers. Research shows that poor treatment can be a powerful disincentive for women to seek care. Mistreatment can also lead to women avoiding delivery in health facilities because of past experiences of disrespect or abuse.

Americares is working in partnership with U.S.-based Christian Connections for International Health, which focuses on improving the ability of faith-based organizations to meet the health needs of people in over 100 countries. Christian Connections for International Health’s member networks in Tanzania and Liberia, the Ministries of Health and local community leaders will also be participating.

“We aspire to connectlocal faith-based health providers with partners to improve the impact and scale of their initiatives, which is integral to our mission,” said Christian Connections for International Health Executive Director Doug Fountain. “This project has tremendous potential to help the Christian Health Association of Liberia and the Christian Social Services Commission in Tanzania raise the bar for quality and access to respectful maternity care, family planning and nutrition. The project leverages these connected networks as we share lessons learned on the facility level to additional health facilities in their member networks, strengthening maternal and child health services much more broadly in both countries.”

Americares is also partnering with Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to implement baseline data collection, develop strategic approaches to behavior change and provide training to local staff.

“Business for Impact is excited to be part of this important initiative to improve respectful maternity care. We will apply our social marketing and behavioral science expertise to understand the barriers that prevent women from accessing quality health services, as well as the health care provider variables that limit provision of high-quality services. Based on this research, our team will work with local partners to design social norm change and individual behavior change strategies to strengthen the maternal and child health ecosystem and drive improvements in quality and health outcomes,” said Bill Novelli, the founder of Business for Impact and professor of the practice at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

USAID is providing instrumental support for the project with a five-year, $25 million grant funded through its New Partnerships Initiative. Additional funding will be provided by Americares individual and corporate donors as well as in-kind donations of time and material support from local communities in Liberia and Tanzania.

Americares has been providing support to the health system in Liberia since 1992; and providing support to Tanzania since 1995. Both are priority countries for Americares particularly as it seeks to address high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. Americares has been partnering with traditional midwives, community health volunteers and community leaders on a Women’s and Children’s Health program in Grand Bassa County, Liberia, since 2015 to improve the quality and utilization of maternal health care. In Tanzania, Americares has been providing donations of medicines and medical supplies to Bugando Medical Center since 1995 and working to improve the quality of cost-free care for fistula repair, a childbirth injury, at the hospital since 2009.

Americares helps communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters; increase access to medicine and medical supplies; improve and expand clinical services; and prevent disease and promote good health. Since its founding more than 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $18 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States.