Touch Foundation saves the lives of mothers and newborns by improving the health system and providing emergency transportation to ensure they have access to quality care during and after pregnancy.
With nearly half of all Tanzanian women giving birth at home without the care of a skilled health worker, deaths of mothers and newborns due to birth complications is unnecessarily high. Complex and systemic issues like weak health systems and delays in accessing care lead to the high rates of maternal and newborn mortality. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to maternal and newborn health is possible if governments, donors, and civil society collaborate to expand proven solutions.
We launched Mobilizing Maternal Health in 2013 with support from Vodafone Foundation, USAID/PEPFAR, ELMA Foundation and in collaboration with Pathfinder International and other partners. The program is addressing high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in rural areas of Tanzania by reducing delays in access to care and improving the entire health system. Together with our partners, we aim to improve the quality of and access to care at health facilities, and leverage mobile phone solutions to provide transport to mothers and newborns in an emergency.
Health systems improvements:
We improve elements of the health system, like the health workforce and infrastructure, to ensure mothers and newborns receive lifesaving care quickly. We train healthcare workers, including nurses and midwives, in Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care. And, we have built or refurbished and equipped new infrastructure at Treat & Train regional and district hospitals, including C-section theaters, neonatal intensive care units, and maternity waiting hostels.
Recognizing that most maternal complications that may result in the death of the mother and newborns cannot be easily predicted, we built the Emergency Transport System (EmTS) to address the complication as quickly and effectively as possible. This innovative EmTS solution uses mobile phone technology to triage a patient remotely 24/7 and then dispatch an ambulance or community taxi to bring the patient to a health facility. Crucially, there is no cost to the patient for the transportation and the taxi drivers are paid via M-Pesa, Vodafone’s mobile money platform.
Integration across other health priorities:
We expand the impact of our maternal and newborn health work by integrating non-communicable disease services. Working with Medtronic Foundation and other partners we ensure women have access to cardiovascular disease screening and treatment in order to diagnose and manage any potential complications.
Touch Foundation is committed to developing cost-effective solutions to complex challenges. Our recent in-depth analysis of the Mobilizing Maternal Health program ultimately proved that, in the context of rural Tanzania, the creation of a cost-effective emergency transport system has the potential to significantly reduce maternal deaths. In one of the districts where the program was implemented, maternal mortality rates fell by more than 27% translating to 57 lives saved each year.
Communities and health facilities are using the emergency transport system. In fact, the volume of emergency transports has tripled now that the system is available. Even with the increased number of women and newborns reaching health facilities with life-threatening complications, the fatality rate for these patients at the referral hospital decreased by 88% in the first two years.
The Mobilizing Maternal Health program can reduce the number of maternal deaths within only a few years and is estimated to cost $2,000 per maternal life saved, representing a highly cost-effective solution.
Mobilizing Maternal Health will focus on scaling up the emergency transport system to an entire region of Tanzania to serve more than 90,000 pregnant women and their newborns. To provide even better care to rural Tanzanians, we plan to improve healthcare worker training and infrastructure at health facilities located closer to the communities.
Unfortunately, in Tanzania, 40% of deaths of children occur in the first 28 days of life. Moving forward, we aim to improve the emergency transport system so it can meet the urgent needs of newborns, and build the capacity of health facilities so that they have the tools and skills required to treat neonatal conditions like birth asphyxia.
The emergency transport system is a cost-effective approach to improving health and saving lives of women and newborns. Touch will continue to work with our existing and new partners to adapt and scale this solution and increase our impact.