Our goal is to provide evidence-based maternal health interventions by evaluating the effect of maternal health literacy on child health in select communities in Nigeria. Outcomes from the project will be used to provide health education and promotional outreach to women and girls who need it most.
Africa is faced with major challenges affecting child and maternal health. The World Health organization (WHO) reports that approximately one million babies are still born on the continent, at least one million more die in the first month of life and approximately 500,000 within 24 hours of birth. For those who survive, another 3.3 million will die before they become five years old. Nigeria contributes a substantial amount of the child mortality in Africa, accounting for 2,300 daily under-five year old deaths, and is the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality globally (UNICEF Nigeria, 2016). Most of these deaths are by preventable causes.
Evidence suggests that mothers with increased literacy are more likely to make informed decisions regarding the health of their children. For example, mothers who are more literate are more likely to have their children immunized (Adekanbi et al, 2017). However, there is limited support and access for women in low-income communities to receive the educational resources they need to improve the health of their children.
In Nigeria, we organized maternal health outreach exercises for mothers from 5 primary communities: Okitipupa, Ore, Oredo, Ugbowo and Esan. Mothers learned to recognize early signs of highly prevalent diseases such as diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, the need and importance of exclusive breastfeeding and the importance of prenatal care and immunization of their newborn.
Following education, we evaluated our outreach by comparing the outcomes of women and their children before and after outreach. A cross-sectional study took place in the communities for both time periods, collecting the following information:
a) Prevalence of under-five hospital admission
b) Under-five nutrition
c) Prevalence of prenatal care attendance.
The preliminary results from the survey were used for a research-based health literacy promotion outreach in August 2018 in the Ondo and Edo state communities in Nigeria.
The global health project is approved by the Federal Ministry of Health Nigeria.