Tackling maternal mortality in rural areas
Since the advent of transistors in computing and telephony, the world has undergone immense changes. Thanks to these tiny switches we are now able to communicate, conduct business and administer healthcare at lightning fast speeds otherwise impossible a century ago.
Even though developed nations are able to enjoy the full benefits of constantly improving technology, developing countries on the other hand fail to do so because of various reasons. In maternal healthcare for example, WHO recommends a standard of 8 antenatal care contacts for every expectant woman.
Given that not all experiences are similar, sometimes the number might rise beyond eight relative to complications faced. In developed countries this is feasible. However, in under developed nations and especially in rural areas, Focused antenatal care (FANC) is recommended with a minimum of 4 visits.
What are the challenges faced by expectant women in underdeveloped regions?
Most people in under developed regions live under a dollar per day. Not having enough to feed a family is in itself a problem. The least concern in anybody’s mind during pregnancy would be visiting a hospital under such circumstances.
At this point traditional mid wives are the most preferred alternative to doctors in case any complications arise during pregnancies.
- Lack of education.
In rural areas access to education is limited and scarce. Without proper education, information is best transmitted through word of mouth because of the inability to read and write.
Moreover, with low literacy rates people are prone to misinformation from peers. Such actions have a high probability of drawing expectant mothers more towards traditional midwives in lieu of practicing doctors.
- Lack of adequate number of hospitals.
Expectant mothers that decide to visit hospitals may at times be discouraged by the scarce numbers available to them.
Some hospitals are very far that it takes hours or even days to journey to and from these facilities. The exhaustion and time taken deters expectant women in rural areas from regularly visiting health facilities.
- Lack of proper means of transport.
Not having proper road systems and vehicles that are road worthy contribute significantly to the low number of expectant women visiting health centers in underdeveloped countries.
Public service vehicles are sometimes not conducive since most of them are packed beyond capacity. Given such conditions most women would rather have their traditional midwives pay them a visit.
Such challenges require drastic solutions not only in education and infrastructure but also in how technology is made.
If companies produce equipment that most countries can only afford to buy a handful of, yet they have the highest demands and maternal mortality rates, then they are indeed part and parcel of the problem and not the solution.
Regions such as Africa, Latin America and South Asia have some of the highest maternal and fetal mortality rates not to mention low purchasing power compared to North America and Europe.
Equipment should therefore be manufactured keeping such regions in mid. Moreover, companies should consider including the challenges expectant women in the aforementioned regions face in their design cycles in order to enhance portability and mobility of their equipment.
Solutions positively impacting expectant mothers in underdeveloped nations
Developed by IntraHealth international, mSakhi is an open source android app developed for mothers in remote areas of India but is also operational in other regions as well. Health workers use the app to educate expecting mothers on common symptoms and complications they should be aware of during pregnancy.
Another app that’s helping reduce maternal mortality rates is the Safe Delivery App. Developed by Maternity Foundation a Danish NGO, this app provides health workers in Africa and other regions as well with basic skills and knowledge on neonatal care and fundamental emergency obstetrics.
This is a battery powered hand held ultrasound device developed by Butterfly network . The only downside to this wonderful device however would be compatibility. It only works with apple devices according to their website. To come by an iPhone in most rural areas is very rare if not impossible. For countries with high numbers of apple devices Butterfly iQ is ideal.
Lumify is another handheld ultrasound device developed by Philips. It is compatible with Android devices and for most developing countries, Lumify is indeed the most practical hand held ultra sound device. It’s also important to note that Lumify is available on a subscription basis or a onetime purchase. This makes it easier for countries with limited resources to have access to the device therefore reducing maternal and fetal mortality rates.