The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. These deaths occur mostly in  developing countries with 550 of the daily deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, 180 in Southern Asia and just five in developed countries. The reason for these deaths has been attributed primarily to a lack of resources and inadequate pre-natal care.

To address these challenges, the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ISUOG) teamed up with Women’s Health to Wealth and GE Healthcare to create an ultrasound training programme in Ghana.

Ghana has 319 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births and ranks 32nd in the world for maternal death. ISUOG’s Ghana Outreach Project aims to reduce these numbers by training local midwives, sonographers and OBGYN practitioners in ultrasound technology so they can, in  turn, become better trainers.

“Ghana has high rates of infant and maternal mortality, a lot of them for preventable conditions,” said Dr.  Theodora Pepera-Hibbert, a volunteer with the ISUOG training team and a native of Ghana. “This is where ultrasound can pick up conditions that can make childbirth safer for the mother and the baby.”

Ultrasound can help identify common complications such as ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa and abnormal foetal growth, allowing mothers to get proper treatment before birth and to plan deliveries in hospitals. GE Healthcare donated three Voluson ultrasound systems to the programme and sent ultrasound specialists to help train the participants.

The programme consists of a week-long intense classroom and hands-on training in one of three locations in Kumasi, Ghana. After successfully completing the training, the trainees are then given further support through weekly video chats to discuss images they have scanned.

Midwives and sonographers are trained to identify abnormal ultrasounds in order to refer mothers to specialists. Dr. Pepera-Hibbert shares, “I’m very grateful to GE and ISUOG for taking the time and the dedication to not give up on Ghana even when it’s been challenging.”

Dr. Pepera-Hibbert joined ISUOG in 2015 and recently returned from a second trip in March 2017, when the team identified six out of 18 trainees who qualified to become trainers.

“The Kumasi Metro Area truly wants to make a difference in women’s health across Ghana,” says Gesù Antonio Báez, ISUOG’s International Development Coordinator and overseer of the Outreach program. “With this desire to drive sustainable change, we’re confident that the  program can succeed.”

Between 2016 and 2030, as part of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals, the goal is to reduce the global  maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. With this ISUOG program, progress is already well underway.

Eyong Ebai, general manager of GE Healthcare West and Central Africa adds, “Programs such as these are helping to save lives with relatively simple pieces of equipment. At GE, we understand the healthcare challenges in Africa and we know how to adapt our skills development programs to ensure that the relevant people get the training they need, not only to use GE equipment, but to also build up their knowledge and expertise to ensure they can help diagnose complications well ahead of time.”

A version of this story originally appeared on GE Healthcare’s Pulse newsroom.

Image above courtesy  of G.A Báez for ISUOG Outreach

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