Ph.D. student Heather Underwood and ATLAS master’s program director Revi Sterling visited Kenya in August to evaluate current methods that nurses and midwives use for tracking the progression of labor.
Underwood focused on the use of partographs, which are a paper form used to track and monitor births used as a referral tool for complications arising during labor. The form can help reduce instances of obstructed labor, still birth and maternal mortality by catching complications early.
Despite the lifesaving ramifications of using this tool, the partographs form is often used incorrectly.
Field observations reinforced the specific barriers cited in prior partograph studies and revealed the importance of support for innovations that can increase the correct use of the partograph.
' Underwood’s research focuses on incorporating digital pen technology into the paper-based partograph procedures. The digital pen provides audio prompts for instructions and reminders, real-time data checking on the form, training modules for nursing students to practice using the partograph and suggested actions based on form data.
The digital pen retains the integrity of the current paper-based system, making it intuitive and familiar while adding a digital component, and addresses the most commonly cited barriers to partograph adoption in developing countries. Underwood and Sterling plan to return to Kenya in December to perform an initial pilot study at Kenyatta hospital, the flagship teaching and training hospital for the entire East Africa region. They also will be organizing a meeting for members of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Health, the World Health Organization, University of Nairobi administrators, OBGYN doctors and nurses.
Underwood and Sterling also revisited areas of Kenya where Sterling six years ago conducted her Ph.D. research, involving giving women a voice in their communities through the use of community radio.