UNICEF Commissions SDRC Study on Maternal and Neonatal Health in Urban Centers

Health centers filled with pregnant mothers and those carrying infants. Rooms lacking ventilation. An absence of staff members to record children's weight and height. Lack of money for transportation to and from a health facility. And dog droppings at the facility grounds.

These are some of the situations that are contributing to the resistance of women respondents in selected communities to avail of maternal and neonatal services offered at barangay and municipal health centers. The findings were among those gathered by the research team conducting a study entitled “Communication Analysis of Maternal and Neonatal Health in Selected Geographically Isolated and Depressed Areas (GIDAs) in Mindanao and Quezon City.” The study is funded by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and is being undertaken to inform the planning and assessment being done by the Joint Program on Maternal and Neonatal Health (JPMNH), funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), which aims to accelerate the attainment of health outcomes related to maternal and neonatal health. The JPMNH is anchored on the combined expertise and resources of the Department of Health and three United Nations agencies  UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO.

The study examines how communication affects mothers' adoption of recommended health practices. These practices are: a) giving birth in a facility; b) having delivery aided by a skilled birth attendant; and c) having at least four (4) pre-natal visits with a health service provider. The study aims to obtain views regarding maternal and neonatal health care, directly from mothers, traditional birth attendants, community health teams (CHTs), health service providers, barangay officials, and municipal officials (including the Mayor and the Councilor in charge of health issues, local informal leaders, and the Municipal Health Officer). Furthermore, the researchers seek to obtain information regarding current recommended maternal and neonatal health practices, and how these are being conveyed to expectant mothers.

Assessing the initiatives undertaken by the JPMNH as they have been implemented in selected local government units (LGUs) in Region 12 and Quezon City, particularly its initiatives towards strengthening the role of CHTs in delivering health services and information among poor households, the study covered eight areas in a span of five months: Seven in conflict-ridden areas in Mindanao (Lebak and Kalamansigin in Sultan Kudarat, Malungon in Sarangani, and Aleosan, Midsayap, Arakan, and President Roxas in North Cotabato), and one urban poor area in District 2, Quezon City.

A qualitative research design was employed by the research team to complement existing maternal and neonatal health statistics in the Philippines. The team conducted Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) to obtain a thorough understanding of the participants' unique contexts, decision-making processes, and experiences.

Psychology Department faculty member Prof. Ma. Angeles G. Lapeña leads the research team as project director and principal investigator.  The other members of the team are co-investigators Communications Department Chair Prof. Gerardo Mariano, Psychology Department faculty members Dr. Homer Yabut and Mr. Darren Dumaop, SDRC Director Dr. Maria Caridad Tarroja, Behavioral Sciences Department faculty members Dr. Melvin Jabar and Prof. Cristina Rodriguez, and research assistants Mr. Crisanto Regadio, Jr., Ms. Marie Rose Morales, and Ms. Ma. Antonette Vinteres.