I arrived in Jharkhand, India nearly a month ago. I came here as a William J. Clinton Fellow with the American India Foundation. My previous job was with the Maternal Health Task Force in New York City. While I really enjoyed the work at the MHTF and found it very much in line with my passion for maternal health, I was craving on-the-ground experience in maternal health program implementation. I really wanted to work at the community level. And I wanted to put to use the program planning skills I learned while completing my MPH in International Health at Boston University.
The people of India face some of the highest levels of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in the world. Jharkhand, a newly formed state in India, faces higher maternal and newborn mortality ratios than India as a whole. And the villages of the Seraikela block, a region of Jharkhand with difficult geographic terrain and low levels of literacy, experience even higher ratios than the state.
My fellowship placement has already offered me some remarkable experiences (I’ll be writing about those experiences in upcoming posts)–and mentors who are working together to improve maternal and newborn health in Seraikela from a number of different angles and organizations.
I am working with a new public-private partnership that aims to improve maternal and newborn care in Seraikela at the community and facility level. (Click here to read about recent conversations at the Global Maternal Health Conference focused around striking the right balance between community and facility based interventions.) MANSI, the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative, is being implemented by Tata Steel Rural Development Society, a division of Tata Steel’s corporate social responsibility wing, and the American India Foundation in partnership with the local government. (Click here for a recent post by Alanna Shaikh on corporate players getting involved in global health.)
MANSI is a replication of the Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) project that was originally (and very successfully) implemented by SEARCH in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, India. The MANSI team is working closely with SEARCH to train community health workers from 174 villages within the Seraikela block on the HBNC curriculum, a set of modules that prepares community health workers to address the leading causes of newborn mortality and morbidity in India. The team will also be training the health workers on a number of interventions that will target the health of the mother–as well as upgrading several sub-centers within the Seraikela block to be equipped to handle normal deliveries and improving referral systems for complicated deliveries.
I am currently working with my mentors here to define the scope of my work for the next ten months. Much of what I will be doing is developing the training curriculum for the maternal health interventions that will be added onto the HBNC model–as well as helping to conduct the trainings. I am also exploring the possibility of working with one of the other fellows (who is working on reproductive health in Rajasthan) to conduct a project that will identify barriers that women face in participating in the Janani Soraksha Yojana (JSY) scheme in multiple states in India.
I am really excited to be a part of the MANSI team. It is going to be an exciting and challenging ten months–and I promise to keep you posted:)