Now my mother-in-law accompanies me anytime am going for Post Natal Care (PNC). At first, PNC classes were always attended by nursing mothers alone but now come and see, the old ladies are always more than the mothers themselves. Some mother-in-laws bring their grandchildren for PNC, while the mothers are busy doing other household chores.” –Woman, Dabo, Upper West Region.
This is the testimony of a woman in the Upper West Region, where hitherto, pregnant women could not access health care without the consent of their husbands and mother-in-law, due to cultural beliefs.
The change became possible after a project ‘Community Benefits Health’ was piloted in three districts of the region named Jirapa, Lambussie and Wa West.
Dubbed “Innovations for maternal, newborn and child health,” the project is an initiative of Concern Worldwide, a United States of America based non-governmental organisation with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It is implemented in the three districts by ProNet North, a Ghanaian sustainable development organisation and JSI Research and Training Institute Inc. and Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC), which provide research, monitoring and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the programme.
The programme targets rural communities that have the highest death rates for pregnant women and newborns and uses creative solutions to improve on their survival.
Using healthy behaviours through robust health messaging that targets women and the important influencers in their lives such as their husbands, mother-in-laws and village elders, the programme aims to get pregnant women to attend at least four antenatal visits, use skilled delivery facilities, a post-delivery check for mother and baby and early exclusive breastfeeding.
The whole community also benefits from a community development project such as a borehole or tri-cycle to take pregnant women to health facilities for delivery.
At a programme in Accra to disseminate findings on the three-year project which started in October 2013 and ends in June 2016, the Lead Researcher, Ms Leanne Dougherty said there appeared to be a behaviour change trend emerging with regard to women’s exposure and as a result, increased knowledge and improved attitudes towards antenatal visits.
She said since the project started, women in the pilot areas were now going to health facilities for early antenatal care, delivery and post natal care. The women, she said, were also practising exclusive breastfeeding and had come to understand that its early initiation was healthy for their babies.
Men, she said, were also now more involved in the pre and post-natal care of their wives.
The Jirapa District Director of Health Services, Ms Phoebe Balagumyetime, in a presentation on progress on some maternal and neonatal child health indicators in the selected pilot district, said before the project started,the districts were saddled with high low birth weights, high teenage pregnancies, inadequate recognition of maternal danger signs and newborn illnesses, late care seeking by families and communities, negative cultural practices and behaviours, low capacity of some frontline workers in maternal and new born care and challenges in referral systems among other challenges.