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July 11, 2016

We have recently stumbled across an innovative aid to pregnant refugees that we could not keep to ourselves: an app called HaBaby.

While maternal health has been of constant importance in the sphere of women’s rights, the topics and risks within maternal health evolve with the evolving world. This evolution means different populations are at increased risk for poor maternal health outcomes. Today, the staggering number of displaced persons and refugees is a huge population lacking sufficient maternal and newborn health resources. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 21.3 million of who are refugees.

Conflict settings and displacement greatly impact the health of mothers and newborns. “Over 60 percent of the world’s maternal deaths occur in 10 countries, nine of which are currently experiencing or emerging from conflict,” reports the Women’s Refugee Commission. This is true for a number of reasons. Conflict settings and displacement put women at an increased risk for sexual abuse and violence, which can lead to unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Health systems in refugee settings are often unequipped to provide complete antenatal and postnatal care. Furthermore, it is usually difficult for women to receive information that is reliable and specific to their needs during pregnancy.

This lack of access to reliable information was the driving force...

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June 29, 2016

Sexually Transmitted Infections are harmful in across populations, but can have especially devastating effects during pregnancy. Screening is essential during the first trimester for what we have identified as the "Big 5 STIs": chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis B. The unique effects of each of these diseases on pregnancy will be explained below.

Chlamydia

Pregnant women with chlamydia hold a higher risk for birth complications. These include miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth. The disease can also be transmitted vertically during birth. Treatment for chlamydia is approved in pregnant women, and treatment before delivery erases the risk of transmission.
In 2012, the estimated global prevalence of chlamydia among women 15-49 was 4.2% (Newman et al 2012). Chlamydia is prevalent all over the world. It is more likely to develop in most of Africa and Asia due to lack of detection and treatment, but rates of infection are just as high in many parts of the world.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea in pregnancy is linked with higher rates of miscarriage, amniotic sac infection, preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes, and severe eye infection passed to the baby during delivery, which can lead to blindness. Gonorrhea is safe to treat with antibiotics during pregnancy.
The estimated global prevalence of gonorrhea in 2012 among women 15-49 was 0.8% (Newman et al 2012). Rates are highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia...

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June 16, 2016

We often do not think about what we cannot see, but in some cases we do not think about what we can see, and more importantly WHY we can see – power.

It is no secret that the world is unequal. Most people are aware of at least some of these inequalities; for instance, almost everyone knows that the global burden of disease falls harder in Sub-Saharan Africa than Western Europe. Some inequalities, however, are less obvious and less discussed. Access to power is trivial in most developed countries, yet remains a major barrier to development in many impoverished nations.

According to ONE.org, 7 out of 10 people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Furthermore, 30% of health centers and schools function without electricity, making the barrier to effective health and education delivery even stronger. This was consistent with our findings from a needs survey of different providers around the world. Many rural clinics or hospitals reported functioning with either inconsistent or no power. This was our motivation for finding and joining forces with the newest partner of the Maternova team: Goal Zero.

Through Goal Zero, we are now offering portable power and lighting devices. This includes hand-crank lighting devices and a solar-powered recharging device. With these tools, we ensure that USB rechargeable medical devices, including the CRADLE Vital Signs Alert by Microlife, can always be ready for use, despite fluctuating or...

ARV use in pregnancy
June 13, 2016

An essential component of working in the maternal and neonatal health field is staying up to date on the rapidly evolving research. We do this through a variety of outlets; social media is a vital tool, and press releases or news stories are always useful sources. Another way for us to stay informed is by attending talks by experts in the field. This is how we found out about recent research on the adverse birth outcomes of ARV use during pregnancy.

ARV use during pregnancy has been proven again and again to be an efficient method for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. In fact, proper ARV treatment throughout the stages of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding decreases the risk of transmission from as high as 45% to below 5%. In the presence of such evidence, the WHO now recommends providing lifelong Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) to all pregnant women regardless of CD4 count. However, evidence has begun to surface regarding the adverse effects of this life-saving treatment.

A number of recent studies have been conducted to examine the effects of ARV treatment on pregnancy. The results have been mixed. Most of the studies have been done in developed countries or with very small sample sizes, so their results cannot necessarily be extended to the populations where we at Maternova are most involved with PMTCT. This aside, two recent studies conducted in Botswana and Tanzania have found a correlation between HAART...

mothers, maternal health, global health
May 18, 2016

As healthcare professionals, thought leaders, and innovators converge on Copenhagen, Denmark for 'Women Deliver', the team at Maternova honor all the work done by champions for women globally. We want to reflect back on a year of accomplishment and success for those who work tirelessly to provide women a better world. This past year has seen many triumphs including a reduction in maternal mortality in many key countries. But, we can’t overlook the preponderance of evidence that suggests we can still do so much better. And it is in that spirit, and solemn remembrance that we offer this piece.

In March of 2016, the public consciousness was rocked by the grim sight of a young mother, lying dead outside a hospital in Douala, Cameroon. Her pilgrimage to receive medical care for herself and her unborn twins ended tragically. This was not a death resulting from unpreventable circumstance, rather she died after being refused care based on her inability to pay. As an amateur video surfaced, likely shot with a cell phone, of a frantic family member heroically trying to cut the babies from their mother’s womb, remote viewers the world over called for immediate action and investigation into this horrific event that sadly is all too common in developing countries. Her name was Koumate...

prosthetics Vietnam 3D printing global health
May 05, 2016

*3D printing of prosthetics: a social enterprise in Vietnam

Persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, representing 15% of the global population. 80% of this population live in developing countries. We report on a creative approach to the new 3D printing craze-- and its application in personalized prosthetics in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, disabled persons account for 15.3% of the country’s population. The main causes are US-Vietnam war casualties, the lasting effects of Agent Orange (a herbicide warfare that causes mental and physical disability) and land mine accidents. UNICEF-Viet Nam estimates that there are 1.2 million Vietnamese children (out of the 30.5 million Vietnamese under 18) with disabilities. Yet, the WHO reports that less than 5% of amputees have any access to prosthetic products in developing countries.

Significantly, inequality is exacerbated for women and girls with disabilities. The United Nations estimates that 75% of women with disabilities are unemployed and women with disabilities who are employed often earn less than their male counterparts and women without disabilities. In addition, this inequality also exist in education. While the overall literacy rate for persons with disabilities is 3 percent, UNESCO estimates that it is just 1 percent for women and girls with disabilities.

3D Printing prosthetics

Prosthetics are among the most personal pieces of technology...

Infection, co-infection, HIV
April 30, 2016

Nobody needs convincing of the huge impact of HIV in our world today. While the prevalence of HIV differs vastly by region of the world, it still touches nearly every corner of the earth and has caused devastation throughout the span of its pandemic. There are an estimated 35 million people living with HIV today, and while the number of mortalities per year has fallen in recent years, it remains above one million. While these numbers are difficult to see, they are unlikely a surprise to most. The HIV pandemic is one of the most researched, targeted, and widely discussed. Much less discussed is the interaction HIV can have with other infectious diseases, and how coinfection can amplify the effects of disease.

Coinfection is defined as infection with more than one disease at the same time. The impact of coinfection with HIV is especially significant due to where HIV is most prevalent: Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to the highest rates of HIV in the world, is also home to the greatest risk for an array of other infectious diseases. This has very specific implications for HIV positive individuals. HIV weakens the immune system, leaving individuals more susceptible to contracting other diseases. Once infected, coinfection can amplify the effects of both diseases and speed up the progression of disease, worsening health outcomes to an even more extreme degree. Schistosomiasis and syphilis are both closely tied to HIV, which will now be discussed in more...