The Nasarawa State Government in collaboration with Jhpiego, an NGO, have piloted the Group Antenatal Care (G-ANC) programme to tackle increasing rate of infant and maternal mortality in the state.
Dr Jaiyeola Oyetunji, Nigeria Programme Director of the G-ANC, said this at a Result Dissemination of the Project event on Friday in Lafia.
The programme, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is geared toward encouraging pregnant women to access Ante-Natal Care (ANC) to safeguard their health and those of their children.
He explained that it was a cluster randomised control study in the state to ascertain the effectiveness of the G-ANC model against the conventional individual ANC services.
“This is because we noticed that often times, women would go for antenatal care a couple of times and stop; and even during delivery they might end up not going to the hospital.
“We set out to know why most women stop going for antenatal and why they often prefer having their babies outside the health facilities.
“We came up with this idea that probably the quality of services they were receiving is not satisfactory to the women as well as the long hours they would have to wait in order to access care.
“Therefore, we developed the G-ANC model that will make the women not to spend more than two hours at the health facility coupled with more qualitative service being rendered by the service provider,’’ Oyetunji said.
According to him, the G-ANC is an empowerment-based, woman-centred model of care that reflects midwifery and social behavioural changes.
He said that under the model, when women come for their first ANC visit, they would be invited to join a group of between eight to 12 women of similar gestational age.
He said the women would return for subsequent ANC contacts on scheduled dates and times as a group with an identified facilitator, who is mainly an antenatal care provider trained to lead participatory meetings amongst the women.
He said such meetings would make for self as well as ANC provider’s health assessments with education, problem solving, planning and peer support.
Oyetunji said that 20 health facilities were selected for the study in the state, with 10 providing the conventional individual ANC while another 10 offer G-ANC.
He said the result from the exercise indicated that under the G-ANC, about 90 per cent of pregnant women attended ANC more than the four times stipulated by the national guideline.
This is as against 44 per cent pregnant women that attended at least four times under the individual ANC.
“We also discovered that about 77 per cent of pregnant women under the G-ANC delivered their babies in the health facilities as against 50 per cent of those under individual care came to deliver in the health facilities,’’ he said.
“The second phase of the programme tagged `Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby’ is geared toward teaching the women on how to take care of themselves after delivery.
“Also, it will teach them how to nurture their babies through exclusive breast feeding, immunisation, protecting the children as well as family planning methods.
“Our finding also revealed that the women in the groups fared better and their children turned out healthier than those not in the groups,’’ he said.
Dr Ibrahim Adamu, Director of Public Health, Nasarawa State Ministry of Health, who represented the Permanent Secretary, Mr Ibrahim Giza, lauded the initiative in tackling maternal and infant mortality.
“The findings from this G-ANC study, which have been running for the past one year in the state, is very encouraging as maternal mortality has been brought to zero in all the facilities where the programme was carried out.
“Babies born were healthier, with improved nutritional status and their mothers are more complaint in bringing the babies for immunisation.
“We think that this is the way to go; the hallmark of the G-ANC is that it is not only the healthcare providers that are involved in service delivery as it is being done in conjunction with the women themselves.
“Here, the women are carried along; empowered to provide services that support the antenatal and child upbringing processes,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary said that the state government would scale up the programme to other health facilities to ensure that more women got enrolled.