On May 18th, 2017 Touch Foundation and Vodafone Foundation hosted a symposium in New York City. We invited expert panelists to share innovative evidence-based approaches to improve maternal and newborn health in sub-Saharan Africa and other low-resource settings and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The first panel focused on the impact of an emergency referral and transport system (EmTS) on maternal lives saved in Tanzania, which was launched in 2015 by Touch Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, ELMA Foundation, USAID/PEPFAR, and Pathfinder International as part of the Mobilizing Maternal Health (MMH) program. In the first year, the EmTS resulted in a 27% decline in maternal mortality rates and saved many more newborns in two districts. The panel stressed the importance of high-quality data collection to enable quick fixes and targeted resource allocation. The panel stressed, in relation to the EmTS, the importance of critically analyzing the data in order to achieve buy-in from all partners including the Government of Tanzania and to scale in the future. In addition to data, the program’s tangible impact on Tanzanians has bolstered government and community trust.
The second panel, Innovative Approaches to Barriers to Care, featured panelists examining a range of innovative approaches to remove barriers to quality health care for women and newborns. Mutually beneficial partnerships, a systems approach to integrating devices and interventions, and locally-led innovations were three key approaches discussed. The panelists, leaders of international NGOs and medical device companies, emphasized that productive partnerships depend on a generous understanding of each other’s relative strengths and interests. They also recognized that strong health systems and consistent product innovation can promote self-sufficiency. Lastly, they highlighted that there is an opportunity to support local innovation through North-South partnership, resource allocation, and an environment that enables risk-taking.
For further reading on this topic, please see our Mobilizing Maternal Health Impact Report. To read the full Symposium Report Out, click here. Thank you to all those who were able to attend and a special thank you to our moderator, Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Global Head of Citizenship for KPMG, and to our panelists: James BonTempo, Chief Strategy Officer, D-tree International; Dr. Siobhan Crowley, Director of Health, ELMA Philanthropies; Dr. Ntuli Kapologwe, Director of Health, Social Welfare & Nutrition Services, Tanzania’s President’s Office of Regional Administration and Local Government; Massimiliano Pezzoli, Country Director, Touch Foundation; Lee Wells, Director, Vodafone Foundation Ventures & Head of Programmes, Vodafone Foundation; Robert Miros, Chief Executive Officer, 3rd Stone Design; Lois Quam, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pathfinder International; Stephen Rudy, Chief Executive Officer, Gradian Health Systems; Andrew Storey, Director, Maternal and Newborn Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative
Five billion people live without access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care. These operating room services are crucial to treating people with cardiovascular conditions, bone fractures, pregnancy complications, and many other health issues. If these services are inaccessible it can lead to an avoidable disability or premature death. This situation is far too common in Tanzania where surgical and anesthesia care is lacking and the country is facing a large shortage of healthcare workers with the needed skills.
Allan Joel is an ambitious 29-year-old nurse anesthetist trained to meet all of a patient’s anesthesia needs before, during and after surgery or the delivery of a baby. Allan developed a passion for medicine in 1989, the year his father was diagnosed with diabetes. He witnessed his father suffer from inadequate medical care and decided at a young age to pursue nursing so that he could help his father and others in need. After graduating from nursing school, he applied for a nurse midwifery position at Sengerema Hospital, a 325-bed rural hospital serving 800,000 Tanzanians. Limited funding and resources at the hospital prevented Allan from getting a position and forced him to reconsider his career.
Touch accepted Allan Joel’s application to work as a medical scribe aiding the Treat & Train program. While Allan worked as a medical scribe, he was able to spend all of his free time volunteering in the ICU and operating theaters at Sengerema Hospital. In the ICU and operating theaters, Allan was exposed to anesthesiology and realized the impact he could have on patients’ lives in this field. Inspired to learn the skills necessary to provide life support in a safe surgical environment, Allan applied for a one-year nurse anesthetist certification at Bugando Medical Centre. With the help of a Touch-funded grant, he graduated in September 2016 and promptly returned to Sengerema Hospital to begin working in the operating room.
Mortality and morbidity related to anesthesia and surgery are all too common in Tanzania. We recognize the importance of a safe and sterile surgical environment to protect everyone, including patients, healthcare workers and students, from infection, injury, and other harm. Touch, together with hardworking individuals like Allan Joel, is working to improve access to safe surgical care and save lives at Sengerema Hospital and our other partner health facilities.
With Touch’s help, Allan was able to start a career in the field of anesthesiology. Although Allan’s work comes with many challenges, including working with only a limited number of trained specialists and equipment, his dynamic drive to find solutions has made him an integral part of the hospital. He has already devoted seven years of his life to improving the care of patients and aims to return to school next year to qualify as an Assistant Anesthesiologist. Touch is proud to support the ambition of young healthcare workers and improve the lives of Tanzanians by providing greater access to quality skilled providers and safe surgical care.
Veronika Method, 23 years old, delivered her first four children in her home without any medical assistance. Veronika delivered her twins at Nyamizeze dispensary, but was told by local healthcare workers that she needed to be transported immediately to the hospital if she wanted her newborn twins to survive. Worried about the safety of her newborn twins, Veronika put her trust into a system completely unknown to her. To Veronika’s surprise, the nurses at the dispensary arranged for her and her neonates emergency transport with the help of the capable dispatchers. This is a system set-up as part of the Mobilizing Maternal Health program with Vodafone Foundation. Yesterday morning, Veronika became our 2,000th emergency case. The twins, Kulwa (4.4 lbs) and Dotto (3.5 lbs), are currently still in the NICU undergoing intensive treatment in the baby warmers and CPAP breathing machines.