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Celebrating the Second Year of the MHTF-PLOS Collection on Maternal Health

PLOS Medicine and the MHTF review highlights of the second successful collection, as part of their 3 Year partnership focusing on improving Maternal Health globally.

Back in late 2012 the Maternal Health Task Force, at the Harvard School of Public Health, and PLOS Medicine issued a call for papers on the theme ‘Maternal Health is Women’s Health’, chosen in order to recognise that a women’s health is of crucial importance through her lifetime, and not just during pregnancy and labour.

Image Credit: Jack Zalium and Richard Basset
Image Credit: Jack Zalium and Richard Basset

The breadth of the research that has been submitted to PLOS since the call has been of great quality and impact. In this blog, we’d like to highlight just some articles in the collection that represent a selection of the important work recommended to alleviate the poor health, low educational attainment and low socioeconomic status adversities affecting maternal health, that women and girls of experience throughout their lifetimes.


Distance to Care, Facility Delivery and Early Neonatal Mortality in Malawi and Zambia

An article published in 2012, highlighted the necessity for skilled attendance at delivery and availability of emergency obstetric care to prevent maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity. In order to better understand these unexpected results, Lohela et al. analysed the role of facility delivery as the mediating factor by measuring the impact of facility delivery on neonatal mortality but discovered that estimating the morbidity rates was not straightforward because facilities attract complicated births with higher risk of neonatal death which makes facility birth look more “risky”. They concluded that facility delivery is not effective in saving newborn lives, possibly due to low quality of care at facilities.


Care Decision Making of Frontline Providers of Maternal and Newborn Health Services in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana

In a PLOS ONE study, Oduro-Mensah and colleagues explored a cross sectional and descriptive mixed method involving a review of maternal and newborn care protocols and guidelines availability, focus group discussions and administration of a questionnaire and checklist to providers of maternal and newborn care. Their results found that by supporting frontline worker in clinical decision making for maternal and newborn services is an important but neglected aspect of improved quality of care towards attainment of MDG 4 & 5. A multi-faceted intervention is probably the best way to make a difference given the multiple inter-related issues.


Effect of Facilitation of Local Maternal-and-Newborn Stakeholder Groups on Neonatal Mortality: Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

In this 2013 PLOS Medicine paper, Persson et al. reported a significant effect on neonatal mortality by facilitation of local maternal-and-newborn stakeholder groups using a cluster-randomized trial in Vietnam. Instead of involving women’s groups, this trial NeoKIP (Neonatal health – Knowledge Into Practice), departs from existing local stakeholders, i.e. midwives from community clinics, local women’s union representative and local politicians with responsibility for welfare. The groups were facilitated to work in Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles to find solutions to local problems related to perinatal health. After this 3 year trial with a perinatal problem-solving approach resulted in increased attendance to antenatal care and reduced neonatal mortality.


In addition to these articles, we are also delighted to announce the inclusion of the following new content to the Year 2 Collection, including an essay by Dr. Ana Langer, Director of the MHTF, on applying Universal Health Coverage to improve Women’s Health.



Please view the MHTF Year 1 & 2 Collections here:

A special event with some of the authors of the Year 2 Collection was held at Harvard Public School of Health, for more information on this event or to view the discussion in its entirety please click here.

A new call for papers for the third year of the MHTF-PLOS Collection has been issued on theme ‘integrating health care to meet the needs of the mother-infant pair’. To read more about on this new collection or for information on how to submit to the collection, please read the PLOS Medicine editorial here.


Post written by Jennifer Horsley, Editorial Project Coordinator


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