International office to improve female health

Press release 27 Jun 2006

Two of the world's leading medical organisations - the oldest medical school dedicated to fighting tropical diseases in the world and a royal college - are teaming up to reduce the tragic toll of maternal and infant deaths in resource poor countries.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have joined forces to establish an international office to improve women's health in developing countries, with the School's project management and consultancy arm, Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health (LATH) as the third partner.

This initiative is an important and timely one, as more than half a million women die each year through pregnancy related conditions because they do not have access to the most basic health care which women in developed countries take for granted. The partners' new International Office hopes to reduce these horrific figures through working with ministries of health, international donors, UN Agencies, and other international and national organisations in Third World countries.

The partners aim to improve the quality of antenatal, delivery and post natal services and help make these increasingly available to poor women worldwide. Their strategies range from developing a simple but life-saving manual for use in rural clinics where one midwife may be struggling alone, to raising awareness about clinical standards in women's healthcare in impoverished states, to mobilising RCOG members to volunteer to provide technical assistance expertise in developing countries working in partnership with governments and local colleagues - including midwives and general doctors.

Dr Nynke van den Broek, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Reproductive Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and a RCOG member, helped set up the partnership. She said: "More than eighty per cent of these deaths are caused by conditions which we are very able to prevent or treat: bleeding, obstructed labour, eclampsia, infection and unsafe abortions. We hope our alliance will help to mobilise efforts so that we can make a dent in these orrific figures.

"The issue of women's health comes on and off the global agenda. However, what is clear is that all women need to have access to essential obstetric and gynaecological care. They need to have a skilled birth attendant - not just a relative. They also need to have a facility to which they can go if a problem develops. For a lot of women this is not yet available. "Almost half the members of the RCOG are in developing countries. We hope hat by pulling together our expertise, we can achieve something meaningful."

Professor Jim Dornan, RCOG Vice President, agreed, saying: "The vast majority of maternal deaths are preventable by simply having appropriately trained staff with the correct equipment at the bedside. This Memorandum of Understanding between us will improve quality where it is needed by producing guidelines, standards of care and lifesaving skills courses that provide technical knowledge to empower those who have the ability to change health systems." The partners are already involved in a variety of Safe Motherhood programmes including in Nigeria , Kenya and Malawi , countries with some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. They also train health workers from all over the world on a Diploma in Reproductive Medicine course which they run jointly at the School.

A pilot of a new Life Saving Skills Course, the next UK-based event on the calendar, will be held at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine on 3-5 July. A formal launch of the RCOG International Office will be held on 14 September in the RCOG Offices in London .



For further information, please contact:

Alan Hughes, Communications Manager, LSTM
Office: +44 (0)151 705 3199
Mobile : +44 (0)7759 243969

Gerald Chan, Head of Communications and External Affairs, RCOG
Office: +44 (0)20 7772 6446