Twelve students, representing each of the University of Maryland's  six professional schools in Baltimore, will depart Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in early July and arrive in Blantyre, Malawi, for a six-week study of maternal/child health services. The project will also determine if gaps in care exist, and if so why-from a local, national, and international perspective.
The students will work together to administer the World Health Organization's Safe Motherhood Survey in the rural district of Chikhwawa, in the southern region of Malawi. Chikhwawa, the same district visited by last year's interdisciplinary project team, is one of the sites participating in Miriam Laufer, MD's seven year surveillance study of malaria in Malawi. Laufer is an associate professor at the School of Medicine .
The team of students will survey all forms of maternity services in the district, from the smallest health centers to the district hospital, to trace the health services available to women in the area. Students will create a database to collate the information and provide feedback to the maternal/child health officials in Malawi. The project developed out of discussions between School of Medicine representatives and local Malawi leaders, who noted that while groups conduct surveys and needs assessments in a single site where they plan to work, health officials do not have an opportunity to collect data in a standardized fashion across the whole district. The University's interdisciplinary team hopes that its report will help local health care providers advocate for more and better services in maternal/child health (especially in remote areas), identify areas that require urgent attention when new programs are available, and be useful on the national level for policymakers to determine changes that need to be made.
The students include Katie Januario and Dasha Smith from the School of Social Work , Vera Kuffour-Manu and Dorothy Njathi from the School of Nursing , Kristin Lohr and Sarah Britz from the School of Medicine, Maria Maunz and Monet Stanford from the School of Pharmacy , Jonathan Nagel and Ashley La Riccia from the Francis King Carey School of Law , and Norman Wang and Zach Schonfield from the School of Dentistry .
Faculty will include Laufer and Emilie Calvello, MD, MPH, from the medical school; Jody Olsen, PhD, MSW, from the School of Social Work; Peter Danchin, JSD, LLM, LLB, and Virginia Rowthorn, JD, from the law school; and Mary Regan, PhD, RN, MS, and Barbara Smith, PhD, RN, FAAN, from the School of Nursing.
The University of Maryland Global Health Interprofessional Council  is sponsoring this project.
While the entire team will be together in Blantyre for the first week of the project to gather background information and finalize its research strategy, the team will then divide into two groups to visit health centers and hospitals in different parts of the district. They will be joined by students from the University of Malawi law school.
In addition to conducting fieldwork, the group hopes to schedule several workshops and meetings with stakeholders in the Malawi health care field and human rights communities to gather information about the country's health care system and human rights advocacy. The meetings will provide context for the survey findings and the fieldwork.
The students will focus on district, national, and international policies and funding sources to help them understand how maternal/child health is regulated and funded.
To follow the progress of the project, visit the Malawi Project Facebook page here .
Article originally posted 6/25/2012 by Ed Fishel: http://www.umaryland.edu/offices/communications/news/?ViewStatus=FullArticle&articleDetail=18375 .