Young Champions

Indian childrenMr. Anteneh Asefa Mekonnen

Country: Ethiopia

Mentor: Dr. Delayehu Bekele, Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College

Maternal Health Focus: Improvement of institutional delivery

“I have harvested a lot on ways of strengthening referral linkage between health facilities (such as back referral) and adding on skills of service providers - training, supportive supervision, emergency obstetrics drill, midwives exchange.”

A Noble Purpose
‘I aspire to be an evidence-based decision maker and strive to serve the underserved and enhance the use of maternal health services,’ this led Anteneh to take up improvement of institutional delivery as his Maternal Health Focus. He had been mentored by Dr. Delayehu Bekele of Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Background
Mr. Anteneh Asefa Mekonnen has a BSc in Nursing and a Master’s in Public Health. He had several responsibilities in his position at Hawassa University School of Public and Environmental Health, as lecturer and health care management module coordinator and formerly served as Assistant Dean of Health Science Faculty at another government university. He is an author and a co-author of eight research activities contributing to the health sector. He has also served as a part-time consultant for the Ministry of Health, Regional Health Bureaus, and NGOs.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
As a Young Champion, Anteneh explored how to improve the institutional delivery service in southern Ethiopia. During his fellowship he tested quantitative methods of measuring disrespect and abuse during childbirth in public health facilities and qualitative exploration (with service providers) to complement the findings from the quantitative tools. He worked hard towards his aspiration to see mothers benefiting from the highest attainable quality of health services, which contributes to reduction in maternal mortality through improvement of acceptability and friendliness of maternal health services.

Impact
Anteneh conducted a research to assess disrespect and abuse during childbirth in St. Paul's Hospital Millennium Medical College and three catchment health centers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which revealed disrespect and abuse to be highly prevalent (96.5% of mothers had faced disrespect and abuse during birth). He gained a lot on ways of strengthening referral linkage between health facilities (such as back referral) and adding on the skills of service providers.

Young Champion conducting outreach with men in a Nigerian communityMr. Ashiru Adamu Abubakar

Country: Nigeria

Mentor: Mr. Umar Farouk Wada, Health Education Initiative for Women

Maternal Health Focus:  Main causes of maternal mortality in Northern Nigeria

"The Maternal Health Young Champions fellowship program has to a greater extent exposed me to the wider maternal health community and them to me. It has developed my capacity to become a better advocate of maternal health through research and constructive engagement with the community and policy makers in ensuring good attitude, policies and accountability in maternal health, especially in Jigawa state, Nigeria."

A Noble Purpose
Main causes of maternal mortality in Northern Nigeria is Ashiru’s Maternal Health Focus. He had been competently guided by his mentor Mr. Umar Farouk Wada, who has done great work for Health Education Initiative for Women. Ashiru’s research focus had been firmly steered by his belief: ‘The process of pregnancy and child birth is a physiologic process, and a thing of joy, and should not constitute disease, death, or agony to the families and communities. Therefore, an effort to make this process safe and joyful is the greatest service to humanity.’

Background
Mr. Ashiru Abubakar has a Bachelor of medicine and Bachelor of surgery from Bayero University Kano, Nigeria and is a medical practitioner focusing on obstetrics. Recognizing the role of obstetric hemorrhages in many maternal deaths, Ashiru pushed for an unprecedented blood donation campaign for the maternity unit of the Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital Kano. This campaign yielded over 200 donated pints of blood – one of the highest in the country. As a voluntary blood donor himself, he has helped to dispel some of the misconception in the region towards blood donations. He also participated in drafting a protocol to tackle the rising incidences of child sexual abuse.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Ashiru’s blog posts detail his journey in the program and his quest for the improvement of maternal care by improving provider attitudes. He and Chinomso Ibe Traffina were two of the three awardees for the ‘MamaYe’ award for leadership in maternal care. Ashiru’s journey took him deep into rural Jigawa where he had the distinction of having a baby named ‘Azer’ after him as a tribute, for it was the first baby in the village delivered by a doctor. Ashiru's mentor organization works in 44 communities, 14 of them include activities related to Ashiru's research on the attitude of health care workers; hence, he had to visit at least two health facilities in two different communities daily.

Impact
This young Champion summarizes his research saying, ‘Even though poor health provider attitude is conceived by all and sundry as a barrier to maternal health utilization, in Jigawa state, Nigeria about 80% of the respondents acknowledge good attitude from health workers in Jigawa, and significant proportion attribute poor health provider attitude to poor client/client relatives attitude.’

Young Champion saving the life of a Nigerian women with delivery complicationsMs. Chinomnso Ibe Traffina

Country: Nigeria

Mentor: Dr. Emeka Nwachukwu, E&F Management Consult

Maternal Health Focus: Male involvement; community advocates

“I was very fortunate that my mother survived my birth, I was fortunate to survive my daughters’ childbirth. I can’t imagine losing her during her own time of child birth; I can’t imagine losing any woman to something that can be prevented. No woman deserves to die bringing life to the world; this is my motivation when I wake up every day to give my support in saving the lives of mothers!"

A Noble Purpose
‘No woman should die bringing life to the world. When a mother dies, the well being of everyone in the society is threatened – let’s save our mothers today.’ With this pledge, Chinomnso took up male involvement as community advocates as her Maternal Health Focus. Dr. Emeka Nwachukwu of E&F Management Consult had been her mentor throughout her research work.

Background
Ms. Chinomnso Traffina specializes in nursing, is a certified midwife, and is working towards an Advanced Masters in Public Health. She has worked at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria for over two years, where she coordinated the Global Fund ATM and health system project. She currently works for the Traffina Foundation for Community Health, which she founded in 2007. She has experience working on programs for maternal/child health and father care projects in Eastern and Northern Nigeria. Included among these projects is the award-winning ‘Let’s Save Our Mothers’ program. Chinomnso first became interested in maternal health as a student at the Midwifery Training School.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Chinomso had been prolific in her field work. She visited many villages in preparation for her research on community involvement in maternal health. She is also a co-recipient for the ‘MamaYe’ award with Ashiru Abubakar. Chinomso was invited by the IDEAS team of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to meet with them at their learning workshop and find ways to collaborate on their project in Nigeria.

Impact
Through this program, as Chinomso observed,  the intervention facility have seen the need to buy into the program as many complications recorded in the facility are based on delays caused by the husband of their pregnant clients. Now every woman who registers for antenatal care comes back with her husband for the first visit with an invitation slip that requires the husband’s attention by the facility. Culture and religion has been a great barrier as some men see it as a taboo to be in the midst of other pregnant women apart from their wives. Door to door free antenatal care services had helped to identify ten pregnant women who were at risk, with no idea of the existing pregnancy complications but rather accepting their illness as ‘God’s wish.’ They were linked to the nearby facility and properly monitored till delivery. This activity continues even after the fellowship.

Young Champion conducting a clinic with Nigerian womenMs. Oluwadamilola Olufunbi Olaogun

Country: Nigeria

Mentor: Professor Oladele Akogun, Common Heritage Foundation

Maternal Health Focus: Maternal health services and socio-cultural barriers

“The nine months of MHYC mentorship turned out to be an adventure. I knew the things I wanted to work on, but many unexpected things happened along the way that eventually spiced up the whole program. I can truly say that I am better off than I started.”

A Noble Purpose
Oluwadamilola believes that, ‘Improving the maternal and child health of every population improves the populations’ health.’ Therefore, she chose maternal health services and socio-cultural barriers as her Maternal Health Focus and to guide her through to her goal, she had Professor Oladele Akogun of Common Heritage Foundation as her mentor.

Background
Ms. Oluwadamilola Olaogun has a medical degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria and a Masters of Public Health from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. She is passionate about issues related to maternal and child health. During her service year, Oluwadamilola initiated the inclusion of health promotion and volunteered as a health instructor in a skills acquisition community development project called ‘Girl Child Education Initiative.’ Oluwadamilola worked with the Midwives Service Scheme team on the state of readiness assessment for the condition cash transfer pilot project. She also gives technical assistance for research development in Pro-Health International organization.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Oluwadamilola had developed a module which can be used to train midwives on attitude-related issues and the government of Nigeria has already declared interest in it. She conducted fieldwork and research to support the model. Recently, Oluwadamilola had received an invitation from her former school the Nuffield Center for International Health and Development, University of Leeds, UK to share her experience as a Nigerian Maternal Health Young Champion to Public Health students.

Impact
Funbi says, ‘Advocating for improved quality of care/respectful maternity care, without giving health care workers especially those in the rural community the minimum resources to work with is not a fair deal.’ Her study has clearly revealed the need to bridge the gap that exists between policy makers/implementers and the academic community; as long as policy makers do not fully understand the importance of maternal health, many findings will take years to be implemented and health workers will continue to be subjected to unfavourable working conditions. She hopes that in the coming years, she will be able to research further into how maternity care can be improved at the primary level and also bridge some of the gap that exists between our policy makers and academics.

Young Champion conducting community outreach in MexicoMs. Luz Maria Soto Pizano

Country: Mexico

Mentor: Dr. Rosario Cardenas, Observatorio de Motalidad Materna

Maternal Health Focus: Maternal Health Field Work in Chiapas

“In my experience, applying evidence-based clinical guidelines on maternal health care needs to be focused. One guideline for each unit should be considered as a final target, keeping all users that might be pregnant indigenous women in the loop. This should lead into developing medical skills to generate specific protocols and consider certain conditions on and individual basis.”

A Noble Purpose
Luz Maria’s Maternal Health Focus was field research in Chiapas, where Dr. Rosario Cardenas of Observatorio de Motalidad Materna guided her along the comprehensive field work and provided qualitative suggestions. ‘I love fighting for the dream that, in my country health would be a right that women may fully enjoy, not merchandise or a privilege. I also dream that inequality is not any more a risk for women's lives. This program will help me to make these dreams come true.’

Background
Ms. Luz Maria Soto Pizano has a Medical Degree from Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City and a Master’s Degree in Rural Development. She has worked on maternal health issues for several organizations and has volunteered in Mexico and Haiti. Luz Maria is passionate about her job, she is concerned about the well-being of the community she is working in and is open to enhance her abilities and knowledge to improve her professional capabilities. Preceding the fellowship, she worked as a coordinator at Casa de la Mujer in Chiapas and had greatly contributed towards improving results of the organization’s work.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Luz Maria's work in Mexico was focused in the field. She traveled to remote and underserved areas to support the work of her host institution. She built a relationship with the indigenous communities she worked with throughout her program. Also, she developed programs that ensure women receive the best possible attention and information, and hopes that health will someday be a right that women fully enjoy.

Impact
Luz Maria articulates, ‘I determine that there is not a consensus that manages the follow up attention for appliance of protocols and clinical guidelines; this important situation risks the life and safety of every pregnant woman. Informing my results to medical servers has been complicated because they are not used to listen about their work directly affecting their clinical practices, including an adequate human relationship with women.’

Indian mother and childrenMs. Mahlet Atakilt Woldetsadik

Country: Ethiopia

Mentor: Mr. Mekonnen Degu, Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia

Maternal Health Focus: Prevention of maternal deaths

“The MHYC fellowship gave me the opportunity to return to Ethiopia by working with local communities and conduct research in the areas of interpersonal violence and unsafe abortion. Through my work at Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia, I now have a better understanding of the most significant determinants that contribute to high maternal mortality rates in the country.”

A Noble Purpose
Mahlet’s vision is either to develop new initiatives or work on improving existing programs dedicated to providing comprehensive and quality health services to women and girl survivors of sexual violence, who are usually overlooked by the public health community. To give life to her vision, she chose the prevention of maternal deaths as her Maternal Health Focus. She was well mentored by Mr. Mekonnen Degu from the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia.

Background
Ms. Mahlet Atakilt Woldetsadik has a MPH from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique, a Bachelor of Science, and a Bachelor of Arts from Converse College. She has experience working on community based projects across various cultures in Ethiopia and India. As part of her master’s thesis, she designed and implemented a qualitative research project to study the provision of medico-legal services to survivors of sexual violence. Mahlet had recently completed a fellowship at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique, France where she was part of a team that conceptualized a research project based on the major non-communicable diseases causing premature death and disability in the European population. She was editor-in-chief of the Public Health International Network newsletter from 2010-2011 in Paris, France.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Mahlet and her mentor designed and conducted a study that explores the various co-factors that put women at an increased risk for unsafe abortion, the major cause of maternal mortality in Ethiopia. In addition, Mahlet mentored and taught English to the youth at FGAE’s youth center in Hawassa and surrounding communities.

Impact
Unsafe abortion and its consequences, especially towards contributing to maternal mortality and morbidity, is an issue that can no longer be ignored in Ethiopia. Mahlet’s research results show the need for stronger pre-and post-abortion counseling services so that women are well informed on how to avoid unplanned pregnancies. In addition, her findings reiterate what is already in the literature regarding the importance of having violence screening programs at institutions that provide sexual and reproductive health services. If health care providers have a comprehensive knowledge of the various factors that affect women’s sexual and reproductive health, they will be able to provide appropriate services and improve women’s overall health outcomes.

Young Champion conducting an interview with an Indian motherMs. Neha Rathi

Country: India

Mentor: Ms. Sushma Shende, Society for Nutrition, Education, and Health Action

Maternal Health Focus: Human & reproductive rights law

“Right from the application and selection, Arusha conference, and leadership development workshop, fellowship at my host organization and my research work, MHYC program has been an enriching experience. It has given me an opportunity to delve deeper into maternal health issues in India. The topic of abortion specifically lead me to explore it and bring out service guarantee violations and perceptions of women from the community and abortion providers.”

A Noble Purpose
‘As an advocate and researcher, my inclination towards justice delivery on reproductive rights has been strengthened through this fellowship. I am confident that the deep rooted understanding of maternal health issues and my commitment towards the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity will contribute to improving maternal health outcomes.’ With these words, Neha Rathi chose human and reproductive rights law as her Maternal Health Focus. This Young Champion was mentored by Ms. Sushma Shende from the Society for Nutrition, Education, and Health Action, Mumbai.

Background
Ms. Neha Rathi has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, a law degree from the University of Delhi, and a Master of Law in International Human Rights from the London School of Economics. At the Human Rights Law Network, she worked on two cases that resulted in the award of compensation to victims of reproductive rights violations for the first time and assisted on the landmark reproductive rights case of Laxmi Mandal vs. Deen Dayal Hari Nager Hospital & Ors. In the past year Neha has conducted legal research on Justifiability of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; Law of Self-Determination and Secession; and Poverty as Violation of Human Rights. She has published articles on reproductive rights in The Asian Age, Asian News International, Sahara Time, and Hard News Magazine.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Neha worked on a study about abortion-behavior among vulnerable women in Mumbai and Jalgaon in Maharashtra, closely capturing the perspectives of women and attitude of abortion providers from both urban and rural background in Maharashtra. The study was the first of its kind in SNEHA, on the issue of unsafe abortion and in line with Neha's research interests. The organization plans to carry forward the research with Neha in the coming months and on the basis of the findings appropriate interventions would be made at the community level with the help of SNEHA's existing resources and field staff.
 
Impact
Neha’s study on abortion behavior among vulnerable women in Maharashtra helped her explore emerging issues in the abortion scenario of Maharashtra. Issues such as decision making, sex-selection, perceptions, and knowledge of Medical Termination of Pregnancy and Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Acts in India, their implementation and stigma associated with abortion were deeply studied in one urban and one rural area. Her primary research findings show increased use of medical abortion pills, denial of abortion at most hospitals after 12 weeks of pregnancy, issue of conditional abortion, and substantial numbers of never-users of contraceptives and critical lack of medical as well as legal knowledge on medical as well as surgical abortion.

Indian mother and babyMs. Priya John

Country: India

Mentor: Professor Nutan Jain, Indian Institute of Health Management Research

Maternal Health Focus: Maternal Deaths and Field Work in Jharkhand

“Adivasis’ reluctance to seek medical aid during pregnancy and childbirth stems not so much from cultural resistance but more due to unavailability of quality services coupled with the discriminatory practices they face when they go to health centers.”

A Noble Purpose
Priya chose to study accessibility concerns of indigenous populations in Jharkhand as her Maternal Health Focus because of her determination to work on access and availability concerns among ‘adivasi’ populations residing in hard-to-reach areas. With this fellowship she hoped to strengthen her research with improved technical understanding of basic and emergency obstetric care, antenatal and postnatal care. To help accomplish her goal, Professor Nutan Jain of Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur acted as her mentor and guide.

Background
Ms. Priya John has a Master’s degree in Gender and Development and Social Work and has been working on public health issues for several years. As part of a funding agency focusing on health and nutrition, she worked extensively in Jharkhand with agencies and individuals working on maternal health concerns. Her area of focus was the network formed for delivery of services through the public health system. Priya worked with a local team in rural Jharkhand to systematically document maternal deaths; these cases were shared at different platforms with varied stakeholders. She hopes to conduct further research on the accessibility and availability of maternal healthcare for adivasi populations in hard-to-reach areas. She continues to work for access to care through Pehal, based in Jharkhand.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Priya came into the MHYC program with a clear vision of her research focus. She conducted field research in Jharkhand for an extended period of time on accessibility to maternal health care in a Paharia and Santhal village in the Santhal Parganas region. She had wide-ranging interactions with the regional health personnel on the one hand, and local village families (accompanying women for delivery) on the other, that threw light on the differences in approach and understanding vis-à-vis maternal health care, which in turn provided impetus to explore this aspect further in her study.

Impact
According to Priya’s research, the cultural resistance attributed to Adivasis needs to be understood in light of poor infrastructure and attitudes of staff at public facilities. Indigenous systems of medicine and local practitioners provide ready substitutes that should be better understood and integrated with the public health system. Adivasis’ reluctance to seek medical aid during pregnancy and childbirth stems not so much from cultural resistance but more due to unavailability of quality services coupled with the discriminatory practices they face when they go to health centres.

Maternal Ward in IndiaMr. Solomon Abebe Addis

Country: Ethiopia

Mentor: Dr. Dereje Negussie, Engender Health Ethiopia

Maternal Health Focus: Institutional delivery

 “It was an exceptional fellowship that crated an opportunity for intensive learning, service database establishment, economic empowerment of HIV positive mothers, and a platform to do research on integration. Hence, I am now more equipped and miles ahead to fulfill my maternal health dream!”

A Noble Purpose
‘Three decades into the AIDS epidemic there is no visible integration of Family Planning in HIV clinics. I am passionate to innovate more comprehensive, non-stigmatized, cost-effective, and efficient ways of integration for better maternal health.’ With this thought Solomon took up institutional delivery as his Maternal Health Focus under his mentor Dr. Dereje Negussie of Engender Health.

Background
Solomon Addis has a MS in Social Development Management, a degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology and certificate in Management Development. He has experience working with the government and local NGOs, mostly on youth-related projects. He has a multi-dimensional approach to maternal health and reproductive health issues. Solomon is a believer in networking and connects to society through the various forums and clubs that he manages. He is the founder of Millennium Youth Coalition, an organization that facilitates trainings, workshops, campaigns, and provides health access for rural girls. He had established a large HIV Network in Ethiopia that comprises more than 800 health organizations which succeeded in providing referral health service for 25,000 destitute HIV positive mothers. Solomon is a strong social media user and discusses maternal health issues on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and contributes to Alliance Newsletter.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
Solomon conducted a research titled ‘Exploring the Integration of Family Planning Service with Anti-Retroviral Therapy Service in Addis Ababa.’ He has gained in-depth knowledge about maternal health and family planning from his mentor, documents at EngenderHealth, and global online courses. This young champion assisted Engender Health Ethiopia to develop report collection templates for regional offices and initiated the publication of the organization's biannual newsletter. He also worked on the set-up of the first-ever Ethiopian national toll-free telephone service to provide holistic maternal health service for HIV positive mothers.

Impact
There is generally a good know-how regarding the importance of integrating family planning with antiretroviral therapy services among HIV positive women in the health centers. It appears that integration of Family Planning in antiretroviral therapy room would improve privacy and confidentiality, shorten the waiting time for service, and most importantly increase the uptake of family planning among HIV positive women as barriers are addressed. However, with two exceptions, health centers in the study were far away from integrating family planning for antiretroviral therapy service users, which ultimately resulted in low uptake of family planning services among HIV positive mothers. The main reasons that prohibited health centers from integrating the services were lack of skilled man power, high client load, small rooms, and lack of concern on part of antiretroviral therapy service providers.

Younch Champion counciling an Indian womenMs. Vasudha Chakravarthy

Country: India

Mentor: Dr. Pushpa Tiwari, Tata Steel Family Initiatives Foundation

Maternal Health Focus: Research and evaluation studies

“A kaleidoscope of thoughts, images, faces, voices, and experiences; As I look back, I can distinctly still hear the voices of women and see their faces in flashes like it was just yesterday that I spoke to them.”

A Noble Purpose
‘Through the fellowship, I hope to understand the lived reality of pregnant women and mothers in remote villages of India; the constraints and issues that they face. It is an opportunity for me to explore possibilities, to augment the effort of the present programs to bring about a change in their lives.’ Vasudha’s Maternal Health Focus being research and evaluation aptly enables her to understand some of these issues. This Indian Maternal Health Champion has been mentored by Dr. Pushpa Tiwari of Tata Steel Family Initiatives Foundation.

Background
Ms. Vasudha Chakravarthy has a Master’s degree in Public Health with an experience of conducting research and evaluation studies. During her tenure at TRIOs Development Support, Vasudha coordinated a multi-state study on adolescent reproductive and sexual health and rights. In her previous assignments, she has also analyzed data to support maternal and child health interventions for several states in India. She has experience in undertaking field-based studies, managing large data sets, and has been exposed to a variety of perspectives on reproductive and maternal health issues.

The Journey: A Dream Come True
As a part of the fellowship, Vasudha had conducted research to understand the rationality of access to maternal healthcare services, it included factors that influence and determine decision making leading to access among pregnant women and mothers in the state of Jharkhand in India. She has benefitted from the exposure to the community and time spent working with intervention activities at her host organization. She had the opportunity to closely observe and learn the nuances of clinical service provision with medical teams providing both fixed and out-reach maternal care services.

Impact
For Vasudha, her research has raised many questions, for which she hopes to seek answers in the coming years. Unlike the stereotypes, women in the villages that she studied appeared to be aware of the need for health services and access services from multiple providers. ‘Is incentive pushing women towards government services and the desire for quality making them reach out to private providers or is it that the entire gamut of maternal health services is not available with one provider, that they pick and choose providers? Is this pattern specific to the area that I studied and if yes, what are the reasons for this?’ Vasudha hopes to further explore these aspects.

© 2014 Institute of International Education, Inc. All rights reserved.