Case studies

How legal and policy frameworks support MDSR in Jamaica

Image_map of JamaicaProfessor Affette McCaw-Binns, a Reproductive Health Epidemiologist at the University of the West Indies (Mona) and Dr Simone Spence, Director of Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health in Jamaica explain how legislation and policy strengthened the reporting of maternal deaths in Jamaica. This case study describes how the policy framework was amended to improve the reporting of maternal deaths and how other interventions implemented simultaneously together strengthen the maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) system.

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In the early 1980s1,2, maternal deaths in Jamaica were significantly under-reported in vital registration records by as much as 75%. With over 80% of all live births occurring in public hospitals2 it was suggested that establishing a surveillance system at public hospitals could capture needed information about the number of maternal deaths in the country. Given the findings3, the government agreed to implement an active (as opposed to the pre-existing passive) surveillance system to monitor maternal deaths.

This case study will describe the approaches that the government adopted, including how the legal framework was used in support of strengthening the MDSR system and reversing under-reporting.  Continue reading

Developments in PNDSR in South Africa

Scale of the problem

In South Africa, perinatal deaths are defined as all stillbirths and early neonatal deaths (from live birth to seven full days after birth). While the country has accepted the definition* of reporting and recording all deaths (foetal and neonatal) weighing more than 500 grams, it is uncertain if all hospitals where deliveries take place are correctly reporting all deaths weighing less than 1000 grams, especially stillbirths. This may be influenced by a South African law that requires all defined stillbirths to have a burial and notification of death. In rural areas and busy hospitals, this may be seen as labour intensive for already overworked staff. Continue reading

Piloting PNDSR in Tigray region to inform national implementation – Part 1

This case study is the first of two. The second part will be published in 2017 and will report on progress toward scaling up perinatal and neonatal death surveillance and response (PNDSR) across the country.

BACKGROUND

In December 2015, Ethiopia began piloting a perinatal and neonatal death surveillance and response system in Tigray region in response to national commitments to improve newborn survival. The perinatal mortality rate in Ethiopia is high, estimated 46 per 1,000 births in 2011)[1]. The Tigray Regional Health Bureau (RHB) initiated the implementation of PNDSR after learning the importance of maternal death surveillance and response to generate evidence to save pregnant women’s lives following the scale up and national launch of maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) in May 2013. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been supporting the region following its good performance during the initial phase of MDSR implementation.

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Social autopsy as an intervention tool in the community to prevent maternal and neonatal deaths: experiences from Bangladesh

Social autopsy in maternal and neonatal health

Social autopsy (SA) is an innovative strategy whereby a trained member leads a group within a community through a structured, standardised analysis of the root causes of a death or serious, non-fatal health event. Continue reading

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MDSR in Ethiopia: three years on

E4A has been providing technical assistance for the introduction, implementation and scale-up of Ethiopia’s national Maternal Death Surveillance & Response (MDSR) system since 2012.

At national level, this has involved contributing to the development of the MDSR Guidance, data collection tools and database, and training curriculum, participating as active members of the MDSR task force, and representing the programme internationally.

The Ethiopia E4A team is based in the MNCH department of the WHO Ethiopia country office. In addition to a Programme Director, E4A is supported by five regional Technical Advisors who have been supporting the four large agrarian regions (Amhara, Oromiya, SNNPR and Tigray) as well as Harari, Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa, and a Data Manager working in the EPHI Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) directorate. The University of Aberdeen’s Immpact programme and Options serve as the E4A Technical Support Unit, providing strategic guidance and 2 advisors based in Ethiopia.

Read our two page summary of our experiences here>

Read our training materials and guidelines here>

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A Maternal Survival Action Network for Sierra Leone

This case study outlines how Sierra Leone introduced a Maternal Survival Action Network to support the implementation of Maternal Death Reviews across the country. This is an updated version of a case study originally published in our April 2013 issue of the MDSR Action Network newsletter.

In Sierra Leone, implementation of Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) has been revitalised since the onset of the Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone’s national MDSR framework previously focussed on facility-based MDRs. There is widespread agreement by experts and activists that the use of findings from MDRs for service delivery improvements in the current model of implementing MDRs could be significantly strengthened and efforts to re-establish facility-based MDRs on a regular basis is being re-established. A review of processes and challenges identified opportunities to strengthen MDRs and make better use findings at facility level. The intention is to strengthen the system by identifying context-specific barriers and enablers to the use of MDR findings for quality of care improvements. Continue reading

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The Maternal Death Audit Monitoring Form: a tool for action

In March 2015 we shared the news that the Evidence for Action programme in Ghana was piloting the use of Maternal Death Audit Monitoring Forms. This case study presents some of the key findings from this pilot, key challenges and lessons learned.

Background:

Ghana is faced with high maternal mortality. In 2015, the maternal mortality ratio was an estimated 319 deaths per 100,000 live births [1].  Facility-based maternal death audits have been used in Ghana as an important strategy to improve maternal health care since 2000. These audits are a qualitative improvement process that seeks to improve pregnancy care and outcomes through the systematic review of the care received. The ultimate purpose of maternal death audits is to identify factors contributing to the deaths and to take remedial action [2]. Continue reading

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Malawi builds trust and accountability with a community MDSR system

This case study is an excerpt from a collection of 22 case studies by the Evidence for Action-MamaYe! programme based on their experiences. These case studies bring to light new learning about the specific ways in which evidence, advocacy and accountability must work together to bring about change.

Evidence for Action-MamaYe! was established in 2011 through funding from the UK Department of International Development. The programme’s goal is to save maternal and newborn lives in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, through better resource allocation and improved quality of care.

When the Evidence for Action-MamaYe (E4A) programme first started operations in Malawi, we observed that while some facilities and districts were carrying out maternal death reviews, committees met only rarely and did not communicate systematically with other levels. Rudimentary action plans were sometimes developed, but there were no follow-up meetings to track change. Furthermore, the maternal death review process did not include the community level. Consequently, community factors that might have contributed to facility deaths and maternal deaths occurring within communities were not recorded, no explanation was fed back to families or communities on the reasons for facility-based deaths, and no actions were taken in response. This led to distrust between community members and facility staff, who themselves often blamed the families for bringing the woman to the facility too late. Continue reading

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Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative: lessons learned from a maternal death surveillance and response system in Uganda

Uganda was selected for a pilot project — Saving Mothers, Giving Life – to rapidly reduce maternal deaths through community and facility-based interventions. The model employs a comprehensive approach that builds upon existing district health systems, including strengthening the evidence base for improving maternal and perinatal survival. Read how investing in village health teams has resulted in a 30% reduction in population-based maternal mortality as well as stimulating advocacy efforts and community mobilisation. 

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Learning from Ireland: establishing a confidential maternal death enquiry in a low maternal mortality context

Ireland has recorded a low maternal death rate for several years now, but it was still important for the country to introduce confidential maternal death enquiry.

Edel Manning – the MDE Ireland Co-ordinator, tells us why and how they recently introduced confidential enquiries. Edel outlines the inspiration, the challenges and the results that this new system achieved for Ireland’s mothers.

In recent decades, Ireland has been credited with a low maternal death rate: 4 per 100,000 live births. This was based on data derived from the Irish civil death registration system. However, in acknowledging national and international evidence, it was considered that in the absence of active case ascertainment, under-reporting and misclassification of maternal deaths occur, even in countries with advanced civil registration systems.

The aim of establishing a confidential enquiry into maternal deaths in Ireland was not just to ascertain numbers, but principally to promote safer pregnancy by learning how such tragedies could be avoided in the future. This could make a major contribution to informing and improving standards of care in maternity services.

Establishing MDE Ireland had many challenges. First, engaging and establishing support at governance level with stakeholders in the Irish maternity service including: the national health authority, maternity service providers, multidisciplinary health professionals and academics proved more protracted than expected.

This process was driven by a dedicated Maternal Mortality in Ireland Working Group, a joint Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Ireland/Health Service Executive initiative which helped to garner the required support. Inviting multidisciplinary representatives from relevant stakeholders to join the Working Group, in the development stage, was considered key to establishing commitment for the project.  Although support for the ethos of the project was widely considered as laudable, issues of concern related to data protection, potential adverse litigation and anticipated review of cases by agencies out with MDE Ireland.

Jeyheich, Flickr (Creative Commons license)

Jeyheich, Flickr (Creative Commons license)

The confidential Maternal Death Enquiry (MDE) Ireland was officially established in 2009, with the stated objective of linking with the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (CEMD). Given the relatively small number of maternities in Ireland (70,709 in 2012) there was much to be gained from pooling Irish data with data from the UK.  Joining a larger cohort of maternal death case reviews would help to preserve confidentiality and allow for more meaningful analysis and recommendations.  The UK, our nearest neighbour, has a similar maternity service and a respected and validated methodology in the 60 year old CEMD, which could easily be adapted to the Irish context.

The UK CEMD is part of the national Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcomes Review Programme, which was previously conducted by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE), and was transferred to Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries (MBRRACE-UK) in 2012. MBRRACE-UK has revised and streamlined the process of data collection and analysis on maternal deaths, which will result in reports being published annually.

The first MBRRACE-UK report including data on maternal deaths occurring in Ireland was published in December 2015: ‘Saving Lives, Improving Mother’s Care: Lessons learned to inform future maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Death and Morbidity 2009 – 2012’ 1.  Surveillance data on maternal deaths occurring in Ireland is not included in the MBRRACE-UK report.  Irish maternal mortality rates (MMR) are published independently in annual data briefs and in more detailed triennial MDE Ireland reports (available on the MDE Ireland website).

Since the inception of MDE Ireland in 2009, there have been many challenges in implementing the enquiry process nationally. It was clear to us that confidence and ‘buy-in’ for the confidential enquiry process was paramount at service level as it was a ‘top down’ approach.  We attempted to build this by:

  • Raising awareness and support for the MDE through presentations at the service level, articles in multidisciplinary journals and a national workshop;
  • Establishing a national reporting network to the MDE at service level and collaboration with coroners.
  • Promoting awareness that the MDE process is independent of clinical incident reporting and local review of serious adverse incidents;
  • Alleviating concerns regarding potential litigation.  Confidentiality is assured through a process of anonymisation of data submitted prior to multidisciplinary assessment of cases. There is no disclosure of information to any outside agency.

Similar to experience in the UK and other European countries, a key learning point was that a proactive approach to case ascertainment identified maternal deaths that were not captured by the civil death registration system.  However, achieving this has been labour intensive and, despite support letters from governing bodies, was challenging.  Participation in the Enquiry is policy but not statutory for publicly funded health care providers.  Further, the dedicated time of a national co-ordinator and the support and guidance of the Maternal Mortality in Ireland Working Group has been essential to implementing the enquiry process in Ireland.

A fundamental component of the UK CEMD process is dissemination of recommendations from enquiry reports.  Since its inception, MDE Ireland has promoted this element of the audit cycle through a series of organised educational events.

MDE Ireland’s most recent report was published in February 20152.  To improve the power of analysis and to facilitate direct comparisons with the UK, Irish MMR is presented over a rolling three year period.  Although the overall MMR identified by MDE Ireland (outlined in Table 1), compares favourably with the UK (MMR = 10.1 per 100,000 maternities for the years 2010-2012) and other developed countries, it is important to avoid complacency.  The ongoing enquiry process and collaboration with the UK CEMD will provide learning points for health professionals in advancing quality and safety within the Irish maternity services. As in the UK, our findings were that maternal deaths in Ireland during the years 2010-2012 were predominately due to indirect causes (70%) with the remainder (30%) due to direct obstetric causes.

The increasing number of pregnant women presenting in Ireland with co-morbidities has highlighted the ongoing need for appropriate assessment of women at the booking visit to a maternity unit, allocation of appropriate pathways of care and pre-conception counselling. Also, the disproportionately high representation of ethnic minorities in this cohort challenges us to address health seeking behaviours of immigrant pregnant women in a country which provides free maternity services for all pregnant women.

Table 1: Direct and Indirect Maternal Mortality rates per 100,000 maternities in Ireland: rolling three year average 2009 – 2012

Ireland_maternal death rates_tablesNB: The apparent increase in the MMR 2010 – 2012 is not statistically significant.

Acknowledgements:

This case study was written by Edel Manning – a trained midwife and currently the MDE Ireland Co-ordinator who is responsible for the co-ordination of the maternal death enquiry process and dissemination of MDE recommendations. This is an updated version of a case study originally published in our May 2014 issue of the MDSR Action Network newsletter.

For further information on MDE Ireland please visit their website – https://www.ucc.ie/en/mde/

References:

  1. Knight M, Kenyon S, Brocklehurst P, Neilson J, Shakespeare J, Kurinczuk JJ (Eds.) on behalf of MBRRACE-UK. Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care – Lessons learned to inform future maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity 2009–12. Oxford: National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford 2014. Available at: https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk/reports
  2. O’Hare MF, Manning E, Greene RA on behalf of MDE Ireland. Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry in Ireland, Report for 2009 – 2012. Cork: National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, February 2015. Available at: http://www.ucc.ie/en/mde/publications/