Maternal Health Innovations: Leveraging Health Information Systems and Tools

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By: Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

While improving access to maternal and newborn health services and strengthening quality of care are crucial strides in decreasing the global maternal and neonatal mortality ratios, assessing health outcomes accurately and efficiently is an inextricable step. Reliable health information systems and audit tools allow us to monitor patients’ health, identify warning signs, and prevent complications. These mechanisms enable the maternal health community to track progress, document success, and identify gaps in health systems, which are critical actions in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

To this end, the Maternal Health Innovations Fund, a project of the MHTF, recently supported several projects in collaboration with The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and Aga Khan University (AKU) that evaluated maternal health information systems and tools in Pakistan.

Icddr,b and AKU have published 10 knowledge briefs summarizing findings from several studies that took place in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Southern Kyrgystan, and Pakistan. The knowledge briefs identify urgent needs in maternal health, highlight improvements in the field, and offer recommendations for addressing gaps in access, quality, and measurement of care based on the implementation research conducted under this project.

Two of the projects addressed measurement challenges within maternal health:

  • Rapid Appraisal of District Health Information System: This study assessed the efficiency and use of Pakistan’s newly revised District Health Information System. Researchers noted that although the system is well-established and functioning, areas of improvement include more refresher trainings for staff, increased health facility supplies, and additional feedback on reports.
  • Perinatal Audit Tools: Researchers found that the use of the National Early Warning Score sheet, a tool that measures physiological markers such as heart and respiratory rates, improved maternal and newborn health outcomes and provided medical staff with early warning feedback at a Karachi maternal and newborn hospital.

Learn more about the Maternal Health Innovations Fund and read the rest of the knowledge briefs >>