UK varsity to study Malawi’s child births beliefs

The UK based Institute for International Health and Development (IIHD) at Queen Margaret University will embark on a 12 months research project in Malawi to examine how attitudes to loss in childbearing might be affecting maternal health care.

The University observed that delays in seeking and receiving care are not fully explained by practical issues such as cost and distance, or lack of knowledge.

“In Malawi for example, obstructed labour can be seen as signalling a woman’s infidelity, and she could be kept at home until she confesses. Practitioners’ moral judgements may also underpin substandard maternal care,” lead Researcher and Lecturer in International Health, Dr Bregje De Kok said in statement made available to Nyasa Times.

She said there is need to go beyond the usual assessment of accounts of loss and maternity care, to examine how such accounts evoke local interpretations of human rights.

A medical practitioner in Malawi withe a newly born baby
A medical practitioner in Malawi withe a newly born baby

Loss in childbearing in Malawi is a significant social and public health problem where life-time risk of maternal death is 1 in 18, compared to 1 in 8200 in the UK.

Stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life are five times as common in developing than in developed regions and 92% of induced abortions are unsafe and a main cause of maternal mortality and morbidity.

“All these forms of loss have significant economic, social and psychological implications for surviving women and their families,” Dr De Kok noted.

Funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF), the outcome of this interdisciplinary approach could affect future policy and begin to improve on the stark contrast in childbirth loss that currently exists between developing and developed countries, the University said.

“Loss in childbearing is a medical and social tragedy for which we need new solutions. Current policy treats potential users of maternal health services in developing countries as rational decision-makers who will seek care if given enough information and practical barriers are removed.

“It is assumed that providers will provide adequate care if properly trained, paid and resourced. However, it is becoming clear that information and access to free, accessible care does not guarantee use of services.” Dr De Kok.

The research also will draw on insights from public health, medical sociology, anthropology and psychology and will bring a discourse analysis into an area currently dominated by quantitative public health approaches.

QMU’s Institute for International Health and Development (IIHD) is one of the longest established centres working on the social determinants of health in low and middle income settings in the UK.  IIHD focuses on multidisciplinary postgraduate education, research and technical assistance to development agencies, non-government organisations and government

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