Impact of Community Based Maternal Health Workers: The MOM Project (PLoS Medicine, Aug. 2010)

Access to essential maternal and reproductive healthcare is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.

Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.

The results of this project show that coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project’s focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.