Fine-tuning how we measure results in our new maternal and child health project
By Julia Keast, an intern with HealthBridge Vietnam
HealthBridge recently held a week-long workshop in Hanoi to hash out important details of the new maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) project that will be implemented in Vietnam’s Son La province and Nepal’s Banke district. The workshop brought together staff from our Vietnam and Ottawa offices, as well as implementing partners Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) in Vietnam and International Nepal Fellowship (INF) in Nepal.
A number of stakeholders attended the first day to launch the workshop, including officials from the Ministry of Health in Vietnam, the local government in Son La, and the Canadian Embassy in Hanoi.
Then it was down to work. Workshop participants took care to discuss each part of the performance measurement framework (PMF) – the document that outlines the results that the project intends to achieve over the next four years, and how those results will be measured. This was a tedious and challenging process because participants wanted to select indicators that will accurately measure changes expected to occur as a result of the project’s activities. When the PMF was finalized at the end of the week, there was certainly a sense of achievement within the group. The experience gave me a good sense of the time and effort that goes into developing such a framework.
In Vietnam, inequity in access to health services is a growing problem, with divisions based on geography, ethnicity and income levels. Ethnicity is a key structural determinant of maternal health care use in Vietnam. It is also an important factor in determining the likelihood that parents will seek care for their newborns. When ethnicity is compounded by other key determinants such as education and income levels, the disparities in access to health care become particularly apparent. According to one study, ethnic minority women living in a poor household were almost 10 times less likely to receive antenatal care than women from an ethnic-majority household that is not poor.
The new MNCH project will work to reduce inequities in access to health services for families living in geographically remote areas. Local partners will undertake numerous activities, ranging from increasing the capacity of local government to deliver better quality health care, to organizing activities with men and women to encourage men to become more involved in the health of their partners and children. Through these activities, the project will focus on increasing the availability of health services and will also chip away at some of the barriers that prevent women from being able to access those services.
This focus on addressing both the supply side (or availability and quality of services) and demand side (the decision and/or ability to access services) is what excites and motivates me to want to contribute as best I can to setting up this important MNCH project in Vietnam over the remainder of my internship. After all, while the availability of health services is both necessary and critical to reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality, if women don’t use them because the health clinic is too far away or because they don’t have the power to decide if and when to use such services, then we won’t see sustainable reductions in mortality rates.