Communities of Practice: Empowering Health Workers to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Tigray, Ethiopia

Communities of Practice: Empowering Health Workers to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Tigray, Ethiopia

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman, Ethiopia}Photo credit: Warren Zelman, Ethiopia

My home region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia has made great strides in ending preventable maternal mortality. Best estimates suggest that the maternal mortality ratio in our region dropped from approximately 653 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990, to 267 in 2014. However, while most pregnant women in Tigray attend at least one antenatal care visit, only 41 percent attend the recommended four visits, and less than 63 percent deliver with a skilled birth attendant.

We at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) are always looking for new approaches to support the Government of Ethiopia’s efforts to improve maternal health. We discovered one such approach through communities of practice (COP) -- or what we call technical exchange networks.

COPs enable MSH staff to learn, share knowledge, and improve the quality of project implementation. Created in 2009 as a global platform for employees to ask and answer technical questions and learn from our collective expertise and experience, COPs provide a way for MSH technical staff to share information, project experiences, notes from technical meetings and working groups, announcements about upcoming events and webinars, and technical updates from key organizations, such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and World Health Organization.

I blog more about COPs on USAID’s Learning Lab.

There are several COPs at MSH, including one on maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH). Recently, an MNCH post caught my attention: links to five films – translated into Amharic – for community health workers and nurses targeting the major causes of maternal mortality and early neonatal death.

The films seemed like a perfect fit for health workers in my region.

I shared the videos with the Tigray Regional Health Partners Consultative Committee, and they decided to disseminate these films to midwives through the Regional Health Bureau MNCH case team coordinator in all 52 district health offices in Tigray.

Now, midwives and health care workers in all 224 public health centers and three clinics of a local nonprofit, the Family Guidance Association, use these films to refresh the knowledge and skills of their health providers. Our region’s next step is to target health extension workers who will be able to view the films at health centers and take a copy home for future viewing.

MSH is proud to collaborate with the Government of Ethiopia, USAID, and local partners to improve maternal health. The distribution of these films is one way that information and resource-sharing through COPs can help my country come one step closer to achieving our collective vision of ending preventable maternal mortality.

You can watch the films, produced by Medical Aid Films and translated by Midwives @ Ethiopia in Amharic, here:

Sara A. Holtz, MNCH technical advisor, contributed to this content. Mebrahtu Abraha served as regional technical manager for USAID’s Ethiopia Network for HIV/AIDS Treatment, Care, and Support (ENHAT-CS) program, led by MSH.

A version of this post originally appeared on USAID’s Learning Lab