Field Experience in Maternal Health: Annie Kearns Shares her Experience with the Bangalore Birth Network in India

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By: Annie Kearns, MSc Candidate, Harvard School of Public Health

Over the first three weeks of January, several Harvard School of Public Health graduate students took part in the Field Experience in Maternal Health winter session, organized by the Women and Health Initiative and the Maternal Health Task Force. In this blog post, Annie Kearns writes about her field experience with the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization and the Bangalore Birth Network in India.

As the “Silicon Valley” of India, Bangalore is often associated with IT customer service and technological innovation. Many people, even those involved in global health, may not consider access to quality health care to be a major issue in such a tech-savvy, rapidly developing city. But with such exponential expansion, it has been impossible for infrastructure to keep up. Bangalore has almost doubled its population in the last 10 years. The government facilities simply do not have enough basic drugs, hospital beds, or health care providers to serve the population they’re responsible for.

This January I’ve been working with the Bangalore Birth Network (BBN), an organization focusing on promoting evidence-based practice to increase the incidence of normal births. They are hoping to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes through a pilot project at Banashankari Referral Hospital, which serves a large population of women of low socio-economic status. Working with the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization (IMBCO), the Bangalore Birth Network is implementing staff training programs to improve quality of care by enhancing the use of evidence-based practices.
Over the past 3 weeks I’ve been helping the Bangalore Birth Network to collect baseline data from the hospital on variables such as Cesarean rate, percent of primiparous women with normal birth who are given episiotomies, and the percent of normal labors which are tracked with a partograph. As many as 40% of births at public facilities across India are Cesarean; things like vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) and allowing laboring women to be accompanied by a companion of her choice are rare. IMBCO and BBN are interested in bringing these indicators more in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by using IMBCO’s training materials adapted to the local context, taking into account things like the lack of consistently available epidurals and the culture of barring men from the labor and delivery rooms. I’ve also been assisting them in locating funding for the two year project from regional and international sources.
To learn more about the Field Experience in Maternal Health winter session course, visit the course page here or check out a recent blog post about the course here.