Innovating for equitable maternal and child healthcare
A staggering 94% of maternal deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries . My father spent much of his life studying this problem and in 1984 published Maternal and Child Health in Rural Kenya: An Epidemiological Study, which includes collected data on nutrition, health behaviors and attitudes, and maternal and perinatal mortality in rural Kenya. Studies like his show the considerable influence social determinants have on health outcomes .
For example, health literacy can be a significant contributor to poor maternal and child health . One way Philips is helping increase maternal health literacy and encourage healthy behaviors is through high-risk pregnancy referral cards in Kenya. Tested illustrations support important conversations between caregivers (e.g., midwives, community health workers, birth companions) and pregnant women. After validating the efficacy of the high-risk pregnancy referral cards, Philips, Philips Foundation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Kenya Red Cross Society made the cards available in four counties, reaching more than 280,000 women.
Another way Philips is supporting health literacy for underserved women is through our ongoing partnership with UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. In Brazil, we are partnering with UNFPA to bring personalized, preventive, and proactive information to expectant mothers via our Pregnancy+ app. Content in the app was adapted to support the needs of pregnant women in Brazil, providing access to reliable resources that help them feel better informed, prepared, and confident during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.
Many years ago, my mother started an NGO that supported Kenyan women in breastfeeding. Today, we are more aware than ever of the health benefits of breastmilk for babies . When infants are admitted to a hospital, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends feeding donor human milk provided by a human milk bank when a mother’s own milk is not available . In India and Eastern Africa, Philips and Philips Foundation have partnered with nonprofit PATH to provide newborns in neonatal centers with access to human milk through the Human Milk Bank project .
Beyond education and support, access to basic equipment for routine care – and to manage complications – can be a challenge. Ultrasound, for example, is still not sufficiently available in many rural and remote areas, despite the WHO recommendation that every pregnant woman should receive at least one ultrasound exam during pregnancy .
Philips and Philips Foundation, in collaboration with local government, academic, and clinical partners, are exploring scalable, evidence-based models to improve access to obstetric ultrasound services in underserved communities. In Indonesia, for example, Philips is partnering to help community caregivers and doctors better manage high-risk pregnancies and track mother and child health post-delivery using ultrasound and our Mobile Obstetrics Monitoring (MOM) software solution.