School of Nursing and Health Studies receives grant to improve maternal and infant health in Haiti

June 19, 2009 — The University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies has received a $98,000 grant from the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) for an initiative designed to address issues of maternal and infant health in Haiti. Financed by PAHEF from a fund created through the generosity of the people of Taiwan, the program will assist the Haitian Ministry of Health in addressing one of its most important national objectives: the reduction of maternal and infant morbidity through increased access to family planning, pregnancy care, and labor and post-partum health services.

The grant supports the school’s priorities as a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) Collaborating Centre for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety. One of only 11 such centers in the United States, the WHO Collaborating Centre at UM serves as a vital resource for nurses and other health care leaders in the expansion of educational capacity, strengthening of health systems, and improvement of international partnerships that promote global public health.

“The University of Miami and our school’s WHO Collaborating Centre are committed to supporting the nursing workforce by assisting neighboring countries with their educational needs,” says Nilda (Nena) P. Peragallo Montano, DrPH, RN, FAAN, dean and professor at the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies. “Strengthening and expanding nursing education programs is key to improving health care throughout our hemisphere. We are deeply grateful to the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and the People of Taiwan for their generosity in supporting this project to improve the health of women and children in Haiti.”

“PAHEF recognizes the commitment to excellence and results of the University of Miami’s Centre for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety,” says Edward L. Kadunc, executive director of PAHEF. “I am confident that the Centre will help train a top-rate cadre of nurse-midwives and as a result reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in Haiti.”

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office notes, “The people of Taiwan uphold the same guiding principle as that of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation—the highest possible level of health for all. In the spirit of this common vision and in our partnership, we are pleased to help improve the health of mothers and infants in Haiti.”

Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere. This key indicator has worsened from 523 deaths per 100,000 live births five years ago to approximately 633 per 100,000 today.

Most Haitians live in rural areas without access to health care, causing many expectant women to perish from preventable health conditions. According to the Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (Health in the Americas, 2007), there are 1.2 doctors and 1.3 nurses per 10,000 Haitians, mostly concentrated in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Since 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas, health infrastructure and services for the vast majority of Haitians remain sorely deficient. As a result, three-quarters of women in Haiti deliver at home. Fourteen percent of pregnant women have never had prenatal care and only half of pregnant women have had the minimum recommended number of prenatal visits.

The program will focus on building educational capacity for midwifery education through an exchange of nursing faculty members and students from UM with nurses and nursing faculty from one of Haiti’s primary midwifery teaching institutions, the École Nationale des Infirmières Sages-Femmes in Port-au-Prince. The 18-month initiative will expand the preparation given to nurses to become midwives in Haiti utilizing WHO guidelines. The immediate outcomes of the program will include up to 40 new midwives prepared with clinically current knowledge to address the range of issues affecting maternal and perinatal health in Haiti today. The ultimate goal of the program is to promote quality maternal health through a model that may be tailored and replicated in other developing countries.

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