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Group photo of Midwifery Unit Networking Event
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Improving midwifery-led care in low and middle income countries

Midwifery Units Networking Project partners from Brazil, India, Malawi, Sudan and the UK convene at City to develop plans and secure funding to improve midwifery led-care.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

The Midwifery Units Networking Project aims to develop links with partners in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), facilitating research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

The first Midwifery Units Networking Project meeting was recently hosted by the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research (CMCHR) at the School of Health Sciences, City, University of London.

The research focus of the CMCHR is on the potential of midwifery-led units (MLUs) and services to address the complex, multi-faceted problems of widespread disrespect and abuse during birth, lack of evidence-based practice and women’s reluctance to engage with facility-based birth. These hamper efforts to reduce maternal mortality and are exacerbated by the gendered low status and lack of recognition of midwives.

The CMCHR invited existing Midwifery Units Networking Project partners from Malawi and Brazil and new ones from Sudan and India to participate in an intensive, full-time, week-long programme.  The aim was to establish a collaborative, interdisciplinary network of stakeholders with a shared interest in midwifery-led models of care.  Core elements were:

  • adhering to principles of meaningful partnership, ownership, roles and responsibilities
  • experiential learning, via a visit to a birth centre and a creative methodologies workshop
  • gaining skills in systematic reviewing, to plan and commence work on a systematic review
  • working collaboratively to generate a funding proposal for a larger project to investigate the feasibility of developing midwifery units, to support implementation in low-income countries and to study the process and impact of the implementation.

In 2019, City received a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) block-fund to encourage international partnerships and collaborations that address GCRF priorities to tackle the challenges faced by developing countries.  Dr Susan Bradley and Professor Christine McCourt, of City's School of Health Sciences, received £10,000 from this fund to develop the Midwifery Units Networking Project and run the networking event.

From left to right: Chifundo Zimba (Malawi), Pamela Vicente-Nakazone (Brazil), Dr Lily Kumbani (Malawi), Dr Susan Bradley (UK), Dr Agatha Bula (Malawi), Inderjeet Kaur (India), Dr Nathalie Leister (Brazil), Laila Fadul (Sudan), Dr Jamile Bussadori (Brazil), Dr Huda Sharfi (Sudan) and Professor Christine McCourt (UK). Dr Leila Varkey (India) also joined the meeting on Skype.

During the meeting, partners worked face-to-face, shared experiences and stories about birth and midwifery from their respective country contexts, and engaged in creative methodologies and group learning, which were vital elements of developing trust, ownership and the idea of themselves as a team.

Because of the week’s work they were able to generate a proposal for the next step of their research, winning a further £20,000 award in the City 2019 (GCRF) showcase event.

This award will fund the network to carry out feasibility and development work in the four partner countries, which will form the basis of a further funding proposal to carry out implementation and evaluation of midwifery-led care in each country.

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