The global COVID-19 pandemic has posed a threat to essential health services around the world. Despite this, healthcare workers at a hospital in Tanzania (pictured above) have continued providing services to pregnant and postpartum women in the community using digital technology to record and track screening data. Not only that, they have increased the number of monthly hypertension screenings.
Frontline healthcare workers are at the forefront of ensuring quality maternal healthcare in Tanzania. The healthcare workers at Sengerema Council Designated Hospital, serving a population of over 650,000, play a crucial role in keeping women and babies safe by screening for hypertension at prenatal and antenatal care visits. Hypertensive disorders are among the leading causes of death for pregnant women in Tanzania, and so diagnosis and treatment are key to reducing maternal deaths. A team of nine healthcare workers at the hospital have screened over 10,500 women since 2019, when they joined AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals’ Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) program implemented by Touch.
Mr. Makala, an RN in the HHA program, reported that with increased precautions, COVID-19 did not influence their screening capabilities. In fact, the hospital team increased its screening numbers per month by at least 150 since the pandemic began, now screening over 1,000 women every month. When asked why this might be, Mr. Makala explained that the care the healthcare workers provide from beginning to end continues to foster trust throughout the community, making more women feel comfortable to visit and get screened.
Digital health has promoted ease and efficiency in these screening services. The healthcare workers record results and other key data on tablets, which are synced to an online dashboard. Mr. Makala explains that the tablets are easier to use than paper forms, prompting answers to skipped questions and saving time with typing ease.
What’s more, the use of digital technology has fostered strong communication between the healthcare workers on the frontline and Touch Foundation’s program team, which has been indispensable given limited travel opportunities during COVID-19. The tablets help the program team at Touch support the healthcare workers from afar, track screening progress, and continue collecting data to study the prevalence of hypertension in the Lake Zone of Tanzania.
Working together with AstraZeneca and healthcare worker teams like Mr. Makala’s throughout the region, we will educate, screen, and refer for treatment 50,000 pregnant women and 1,800 healthcare workers over three years.
To hear from another nurse delivering maternal hypertension screening and care on the frontlines, click here.