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The March of Dimes - Global Network for Maternal and Infant Health (MOD-GNMIH)

History

In 2007, March of Dimes combined its three strongest mission alliance partners in China (Peking University), Lebanon (American University of Beirut), and Philippines (National Institutes of Health), creating the March of Dimes Global Network on Maternal and Infant Health (GNMIH). These three countries were selected, not just because of the strengths of our principal investigators and their institutions, but also because all have levels of health system and professional capacity that allow for implementation and evaluation of the kinds of programs at which the March of Dimes and its U.S. and international partners excel. In addition, each partner has links to and the support of their respective ministries of health and finance. This collaboration with government is another reason why March of Dimes mission alliances with the GNMIH and our other mission alliance partners have been successful and sustainable to date.

Goal

The goal of the GNMIH is to allow developing country experts to share their knowledge, experience, skills and materials in ways that improve birth outcomes. The core philosophy of the network is communication and collaboration from the earliest stages of proposal development through the conduct and evaluation of network projects. The objectives of the GNMIH are to establish surveillance systems to capture data on adverse birth outcomes; train primary care providers in best practices in care and prevention; partner on education and intervention at the community and family level; and strengthen parent-patient groups and other national networks.

Benefits and Strengths

The benefits of the GNMIH include the fact that it provides a platform for developing and industrialized country experts to exchange knowledge and lessons learned; promotes both a common and complementary portfolio of research and program activities across network centers; and encourages a consistent methodological approach to data collection, evaluation and analysis, thus enhancing the opportunity to contrast or even pool project findings across centers. Importantly, each of the GNMIH centers has close links, not only with their respective government ministries, but also with the broader community of health professionals, public health workers, laboratories, hospitals and the public in their respective countries and regions. Thus, each member of the GNMIH has the potential to become a hub of a regional network with common goals, approaches and programs.

An additional strength of the GNMIH is its heterogeneity. The three middle-income countries participating in the network represent three different regions of the world: the eastern Mediterranean, western Pacific and China.  The target populations in these countries are uniquely varied with respect to geography; the racial, ethnic and social makeup of its populations; and the predominant risk factors and gaps in health services delivery contributing to the high toll of birth defects and preterm birth in their populations. These differences present unique opportunities for evaluating interventions, professional and public education and other programs in a variety of target populations.

Current activities 

GNMIH programs encompass a broad variety of health research and program activities directed towards care and prevention of birth defects and preterm birth and the promotion of perinatal health. According to the WHO, the perinatal period commences at 22 completed weeks (154 days) of gestation and ends seven completed days after birth or the first week of life.

Specifically, these include
  • Establishment of surveillance systems, including the training of staff to use the data collected to assess national burden, evaluate interventions and generate reports ofr national and international policy makers;
  • Professional education and training of physicians, nurses, genetic counselors and other primary healthcare providers;
  • Community and public education;
  • Media education and outreach;
  • Preconception health;
  • Programs to engage young health professionals in volunteer public health activities and interaction with counterparts in other network countries.

Accomplishments

Progress in the Philippines:
  • In the Philippines, the National Birth Defects Surveillance Project established under the GNMIH has collected data on more than 2,000 newborns with birth defects at 18 sentinel sites and 82 health facilities across the country.
  • Primary health care providers have been taught about the care and prevention of birth defects and preterm birth and appropriate referral of affected newborns.
  • Partners are distributing educational materials on preterm birth to raise awareness of warning signs during pregnancy and to encourage institutional deliveries. These materials are being distributed to women of reproductive age at prenatal clinics and rural health units as well as at mothers’ classes in both hospital and community settings.
  • Teams of youth volunteers made up of students and young health professionals have been instrumental in providing health education to target communities.

Full text of the Accomplishments of GMNIH (link)

Online Resources

Journal Article

Howson, C., N. Zhong, C. Padilla, K.Yunis, and R. Giugliani. 2009. The March of Dimes Global Network of Maternal and Infant Health: Harnessing the power of experts in lower-income to improve the health of women, mothers, newborns and babies. Journal of Peking University (Health Sciences). 41(4):392-394. [Full text PDF]