Health sector in race to lower maternal deaths

Health & Fitness

Health sector in race to lower maternal deaths

An expectant woman. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Maternal mortality reduction is an elusive goal for Kenya’s health system. At 362 deaths per 100,000 deliveries, this is high. The Nordic countrieshave it at four, based on 2015 WHO statistics. According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.1, the goal is to get this to 70 by 2030. Efforts have not yielded quicker results, though.

Watching the historic INEOS 1:59 marathon challenge, a doctor like me could pick some lessons from Eliud Kipchoge’s team.

The first one is organisation. Three distinct teams appeared to me: the communication, technical and the pacesetting team.

Billionaire sponsor aside, teamwork was at high precision. The race was deeply and well thought-out, nothing left to chance. I noted no mishap, but I am sure a contingency plan was ready, in case it happened. The champion alludes to this teamwork philosophy.

The communications team made the world aware of the challenge, judging by viewership. Eliud was also continuously kept aware of his time, his actual position in and out of the time zones.


A highly skilled technical team of tacticians etcetera devised the uncanny pacesetters’ “Y” formation that protected him from “wind resistance”, and apparently himself, from running too fast.

In healthcare, whenever innovation seeks to solve a challenge, resistance slow this down. We need “wind breakers”, and best if they come from the government. New technology and tools like the Nike shoes can give an edge in tackling maternal mortality.

Watching the elite pacesetters switch in and out, I observed both veterans and youngsters. The mix of wisdom, unrestrained energy and ambition is needed in our quest. Wizened system managers should allow youthful ones to generate ideas. A mutual realisation that no individual pacesetter could maintain the pace throughout saw multiple pacesetting teams.

The lesson here is that no single entity has the resources to endure the maternal mortality reduction marathon alone. Having a single game plan and blueprint on how to reduce this is what has been missing. Agile organisations could jumpstart the innovation race to reduce maternal deaths, seasoned ones could test solution implementation, while deep-pocketed ones support the scaling solution.

Regular performance timings, not after the race, but per kilometre allowed for adjustments.

Live feedback keeps us on track.

The data era gives us the missing weapon in solving maternal mortality.

It was a beautiful orchestra proving what teamwork delivers.

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