By: Mariko Rasmussen, Communications Specialist at Women Deliver
Many developing countries struggle to address their health needs without a complete picture of what those health needs are. The determinants of maternal mortality can be attributed to direct, indirect or underlying factors; it is important to identify the causes of pregnancy-related deaths to ensure resources are allocated most effectively to specific intervention and prevention strategies. But what do you do if you don’t have that data? Ghana is working to increase coverage of civil registration and quality of death attribution by training community-based volunteers.
Vital registration can be inadequate in developing countries for many reasons – hospital records are poor, maternal deaths occurring outside of health facilities are not registered, maternal deaths could be misclassified, and so on. Ghana’s Births and Deaths Registry is working to increase registration rates through a variety of ways, including waiving registration fees, training community health nurses and volunteers to register births and deaths, and launching a public awareness campaign.
Community-based volunteers are being trained as part of a pilot project to obtain and forward birth and death registration to the local or district registrar in six regions. This effort is improving data gathering and surveillance in rural parts of the country. Health officials are also conducting interviews with families of the deceased (verbal autopsies), which is useful in communities where deaths occur in the home. These measurement tools allow officials to track trends to get a better picture of what Ghana’s health needs are.
Ghana is also working with international partners including the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research, Johns Hopkins University, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement a Rapid Mortality Monitoring project. Three districts in the Northern Region started pilots this year as part of the three-year project to study how well community volunteers report the births and deaths of children aged less than five years. These community volunteers have been provided with mobile phones to notify districts about births and deaths. The goal is for electronic data transfer, storage, and management to reduce errors and delays associated with paper-based systems.
“The approach capitalizes on the work done in births and deaths registration and community-based surveillance that has been supported by the Births and Deaths Registry and the Ghana Health Service,” says Dr Daniel Kojo Arhinful of the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research in Accra. Ghana is striving to provide basic and primary health care services to its people, and is familiar with community-based health strategies and open to technological innovation. Hopefully, more valid and reliable vital statistics will inform national planning and policy decisions in the future to better deliver for mothers and newborns.
Photo via World Bank Photo Collection