Home » SWEDISH UNIVERSITIES ENGAGED IN SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH 2015 » Uppsala University, 2015 » International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University, 2015

International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University, 2015

Postal address: Internationell mödra- och barnhälsovård, Institutionen för kvinnors och barns hälsa, Akademiska sjukhuset, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden
Visiting address: Drottninggatan 4, 4 floor
Web page: http://www.kbh.uu.se/imch/

Contact persons:

• Professor Lars-Åke Persson, Head of the Research group on International Child Health and Nutrition, 
          phone +46 (0)18 611 92 94

• Professor Birgitta Essén, Head of the Research group on International Maternal and Reproductive Health, 
     phone: +46 (0)18-611 5988

The Section for International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH) was formed in 1999 as part of the reorganisation of the Medical Faculty at Uppsala University. IMCH has several well-established research groups, in which PhD and licentiate students work under the supervision of IMCH researchers. Projects currently underway in these groups deal primarily with reproductive and maternal health and health care, maternal and child nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and breastfeeding, integrated management of childhood illness. In addition, section staff are working to establish new research programmes on community based rehabilitation, public health in humanitarian assistance.
The research carried out at IMCH contributes to equitable global health with an emphasis on women’s and children’s health and nutrition. IMCH seeks to accomplish this by working with global partners to generate new knowledge through research with a focus on the health-related Millennium Development Goals.
The researchers are organized in two research groups; on International Maternal and Reproductive Health
and on International Child Health and Nutrition.

These two groups frequently share the research projects, and so are the collaborative links with partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They reproduce the new knowledge through its higher education program, and make efforts to translate knowledge into strategies and practical action. IMCH runs a Master Programme in International Health, preparing professionals with medical or other undergraduate degrees to play leadership roles in promoting global health. The programme equips students from multiple disciplines and all continents with skills to appreciate and analyse global health problems and to develop and evaluate actions to improve public health. A special emphasis is placed on child health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, public health in human-itarian assistance and public health nutrition.

The department has also run International training programmes on on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights since 1992. The participants have been gynaecologists and midwifes who after an initial course in Sweden carried out practical application work/projects in their home institutions. Over the years many South Asian participants have chosen to elaborate projects on different aspects of adolescent health. Professor Gunilla Lindmark has been in charge of these Sida-sponsored courses, in collaboration with Dr Islam Monir from the World Health Organisation WHO in New Delhi, and Professor Kumudu Wijewardena from the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of Jayewardenapura, Sri Lanka.
The department also has run other contracted courses on topics such as Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance.

– Ongoing South Asia related research on International Child Health and Nutrition

– Previous South Asia related research on International Child Health and Nutrition

– Ongoing South Asia related research on International Maternal and Reproductive Health

– Previous South Asia related research on International Maternal and Reproductive Health

– Other IMCH collaboration projects with India

– Other Sri Lanka collaboration projects

– INFORM (International Network for Online Resources & Materials)

– International Nutrition Research Group

– Centre for Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance (PHHA)

– Swedish Embassy seminar on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights research projects

Ongoing South Asia related research on International Child Health and Nutrition

Professor Lars-Åke Persson (photo to the right) returned to the department in the Spring 2003, after spending four years in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he worked for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), as manager for its Research division on Public health. Persson has continued to be connected with ICDDR,B from his new platform at Uppsala. Prof. Persson heads the research programme on International Child Health and Nutrition involving research institutions in Bangladesh, India, Sweden, UK and USA. His main research interest deals with the prevention of low birth rates.

Sida

Prof. Lars-Åke Persson has been involved in a partner driven Indo-Swedish collaboration project on Infant and Young Child Feeding. The project, entitled ”Combining infant feeding and return to paid work after maternity leave in India”, was granted funding in December 2010. Associate Professor Pia Olsson and the Nutritionist/postdoc Amal Omer-Salim at IMCH were the main recipients of this grant provided by the the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), through its program for Partner Driven Cooperation (Aktörssamverkan). Other researchers involved have been Professor 
Mats Målqvist, and Research Assistant

 Arun GuptaMore information.
They were given SEK 4.5 m for three years (2010-12) for a project entitled ”Using Evidence-Based Advocacy to Improve Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), Health and Survival in India”. This is a collaboration betweenIMCH and the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI). The contact persons at BPNI were Arun Gupta, and J.P. Dadhich. 
Project abstract: Millions of young children die each year around the world. The problem is most severe in India and Nigeria. Most of these deaths could be prevented if children were vaccinated, given vitamin capsules, had safe water to drink and were breastfed. Poor breastfeeding causes almost 13% of all the deaths. The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India and IMCH, Uppsala University are starting a project that will improve these conditions for mothers and children by, for example, providing correct information and support on breastfeeding. This will be done by widely sharing the latest scientific research in this field and gathering all those involved, including the media, to persuade the Indian government to extend its programs to include the poorer parts of Indian society. Improved coverage of specific nutrition interventions, such as early and exclusive breastfeeding, will reduce the rates of pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are the leading causes of child deaths. Such action thus is warranted in countries like India that has shown little improvement in feeding practices over the past decades and is not currently on track to achieve MDG 4. Lack of programmatic breastfeeding support to women is the main underlying factor as revealed by an assessment of policy and programmes regarding breastfeeding. This Partner Driven Cooperation Project between the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India and IMCH, Uppsala University will use evidence-based advocacy to expand the provision of full maternity entitlements to all women and to provide women with accurate, unbiased information through skilled counselling and support in six of the worst States. 

In October 2012, Prof. Persson, together with research partners Eva-Charlotte Ekström, and Emma Lindström at the same department; Ruchira Naved, Shams Arifeen, Anisur Rahman, Ashraful Khan, and Iqbal Kabir, at ICDDR,B in Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Lars Lindholm, Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, was granted a project grant from the Swedish Research Council of SEK 5.25 m for a follow-up study of the MINIMat Randomised Trial in Bangladesh. The name of this project is ”Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Equitable Prevention Across GenerationsMore information on the Swedish Research Council Grants for South Asia related projects in 2012.

In November 2015, Lars-Åke Persson received a new three year grant from the Swedish Research Council of a total amount of SEK 2.1 million for the years 2016-2018. It is another follow-up project of the MINIMat trial in rural Bangladesh, entitled Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Effects of pregnancy nutrition interventions on growth, body consumption and timing of poverty More information on the Swedish Research Council Grants for South Asia related projects in 2015.
The research team now consists of Eva- Charlotte Ekström, Katarina Selling and Emma Lindström from the same department, and the partners in Bangladesh are Shams Arifeen, Anisur Rahman, and Ashraful Khan from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) in Dhaka. The project is implemented in a setting, where food insecurity and maternal malnutrition still prevail, but where changing lifestyles and economic growth potentially increase the risk for future chronic disease of the offspring. Pregnant women (n=4436) were randomised to an early (E) start of prenatal food supplementation vs. usual program start, and multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS) vs. iron-folate. Participants were followed-up for primary outcomes (maternal haemoglobin, birth weight, and infant survival) and for a series of secondary outcomes based on the Developmental Origin of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypotheses. So far the research group has demonstrated a remarkable effect of E-MMS on infant and under-five survival, and effects of the interventions on childhood stunting, metabolic markers at 4.5 years and blood pressure at 4.5 and 10 years. This indicates the possibility that the early pregnancy nutrition interventions may have influenced the developmental plasticity and programmed physical functions that are reflected in these results. Earlier epidemiological studies indicate that foetal growth restriction and early childhood growth influence timing of puberty, which may have consequences for chronic disease risks as well as for future reproductive outcomes. So far there are no studies with a random allocation of prenatal nutrition interventions that include follow-up around the time of puberty. The group aims at studying whether the prenatal interventions influence the timing of puberty, growth and body composition around the age window 11,5-14,5 years. Children will be assessed by anthropomentry, body composition based on leg-to-leg bioelectrical impedance and pubertal development stage according to Tanner. Results may provide valuable insights into the pathways of the epigenetic changes that could be of importance for chronic disease risks for both sexes as well as for reproductive life in girls.

On 4 November 2014,  Professor Eva-Charlotte Ekström was granted a development research grant from the Swedish Research Council (total amount SEK 3.0 m in three years, 2015-17) for a project entitled ”Is betal quid chewing in pregnancy a risk factor of metabolic syndrome and contributing to adverse pregnancy and infant outcomes. A cohort study in rural Bangladesh”, to be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Emma Lindström & Dr. Katarina Ekholm Selling at the same department + Dr. Anisur Rahman and Dr. Rubhana Raqib at International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), and Professor A Mushtaque R Chowdhury, Dean of BRAC University’s James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC,  Dhaka.
Project abstract: Betel chewing is prevalent in Asia including among women in pregnancy. Betel is known as carcinogenic but little is known about health risks for mother and fetus. Studies suggest that health risks are similar to that of undernourishment in early life; adverse pregnancy outcome, poor fetal and infant growth and increased risk for metabolic syndrome in adulthood. Thus if poor nutrition and betel chewing are combined synergetic affects are plausible. Set in a rural Bangladesh the aim is to evaluate the health consequences for mother and offspring of betel chewing. A community-based cohort of 4700 pregnant women will be followed repeatedly from gestation wk 8-10 until infant is 1y. Outcome data on maternal nutrition (wt, ht, body composition, skinfolds, circumferences) and metabolic status (insulin, glucose, lipid profile, blood pressure) fetal growth (ultrasound), adverse pregnancy outcome, size at birth, growth and infant nutritional status (wt, ht, skinfolds, circumferences) be collected. Proposed mechanisms for the toxicity of betel chewing will be evaluated by biomarkers (vit D, vit B-12, folate, crp, agp) in blood samples in pregnancy, at delivery (cord) and infancy. Exposure assessment will include the different ingredients in betel chew and indicators developed that will enable dose-effect analyses of exposure on the outcomes. As the research team includes capacity of large-scale interventions it is expected that research results rapidly may be turned into action.
More information about Swedish Research Council grants to South Asia related projects 2014.

On the same day, 4 November 2014, Professor Ekström was also granted a research grant within the field of medicine nd health science from the Swedish Research Council (total amount SEK 1.4 m in three years, 2015-17) for the following follow-up project: ”Prenatal nutrition and health of children and grandchildren. Can improved pregnancy nutrition reduce the trans-generational effects of the 1974 Bangladesh famine? Follow-up of the MINIMat trial”, to be carried out in collaboration with Professor Lars-Åke Persson, Dr. Emma Lindström, Dr. Katarina Ekholm Selling & Shirin Ziaei at the same department + Dr. Anisur Rahman, Dr. Shams Arifeen, and Dr. Ashraful Khan at International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).
Project abstract: Low- and middle-income countries carry the double burden of malnutrition: undernutrition of mothers and children and adult overweight with chronic disease risks. Undernutrition during foetal life may alter the metabolic and growth phenotypes and these changes can be passed on to the next generation. In 1974 a severe flooding in Bangladesh was followed by famine. In Matlab district two harvests were lost leading to severe food insecurity. In that area we have implemented the MINIMat trial, where pregnant women were randomized to food and micronutrient supplementation alternatives. We have demonstrated effects on child survival, linear growth, metabolic markers and blood pressure, and a follow-up to 10 years of age was recently completed. Totally 974 of the 4436 women participating in the trial were born at time of the 1974 famine. Benefiting from the demographic surveillance system in the area and the current MINIMat project we propose to use this unique opportunity not only to study the long-term consequences (markers of lipid and glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body composition) of famine exposure/non exposure during gestation (F0 to F1), but also the trans-generational effects (F0 to F1 to F2) and the possibilities of modifying these effects (on F2) by the prenatal nutrition interventions. By adopting this life-course perspective we gain knowledge on the preventive role of improved nutrition in pregnancy to counteract the current global epidemic of chronic diseases.
More information about Swedish Research Council grants to South Asia related projects 2014.

Again on the same day, on 4 November 2014,  Dr. Katarina Ekholm Selling was granted a research grant within the field of medicine and health science from the Swedish Research Council (total amount SEK 3.0 m in three years, 2015-17) for the following Bangladesh related project: ”Moving evidence based public health beyond randomized trials: Data Mining strategies to explore contextual influences and predict child mortality outcomes of interventions at scale” to be carried out in collaboratuon with Professor Lars-Åke Persson, Professor Eva-Charlotte Ekström, Dr. Jan Selling, Associate Professor Carina Källestål, Dr. Mats Målqvist, Dr. Leif Eriksson and Dr. Anna Bergström at the same department + Senior Lecturer Oleg Sysoev at Linköping University; Dr. Anisur Rahman, Dr. Shams Arifeen, Dr. Ashraful Khan and Dr. Ruchira Naved at International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka.

Project abstract: A third of the global disease burden involves children and falls almost entirely in low- and middle-income settings. Efficacious interventions for child survival are established, but difficulties arise when scaling up these interventions in new settings resulting in lower effectiveness. There is a need to advance data modelling strategies considering individual, population, environmental, and health system contextual factors for prediction. Knowledge discovery in databases, i.e. data mining (DM) strategies, is designed at finding contextual differences and is increasingly used in business and biomedicine, but rarely in public health. This project aims at employing DM strategies on well-characterized, longitudinal databases from low- and middle-income settings to explore the importance of contextual factors and create prediction models that can be applied and tested for its predictive capacity. These databases emanate from three successful interventions with child mortality outcomes in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Nicaragua (n = 4,000 to 25,000). We will identify determinants of mortality and the role of contextual factors in mediating or modifying effects. This will provide answers not only to the question: what works? but also to: when, where and for whom?. The developed prediction models can be applied to national representative datasets. This project offers unique prospects of DM strategies applied to priority public health problems that could inform policy and practice.
More information about Swedish Research Council grants to South Asia related projects 2014.

In November 2015, Dr. Emma Lindström received SEK 960 000 as a three-year (2016-18) Swedish Research Links grant, provided by the Swedish Research Council, for a Bangladesh related project entitled ”Importance of maternal nutrition for fetal and infant growth. The mediating role of the IGF-system in a malnourished population”. The project’s Bangladeshi collaboration parter is Dr Anisur Rahman from ICDDR,B.
Project abstract: Poor fetal growth is associated with adverse health consequences for the individual, both short- and long-term. While the mothers nutritional status both before and during pregnancy is associated with fetal growth, underlying mechanisms are still not completely understood. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system and its components has been studied in pregnancy and suggested as potential mediators between the associations between maternal nutritional status and growth of the fetus. While several studies have found maternal IGF-1 concentrations to be associated with size at birth, other studies find no such associations. There is also little knowledge on associations between maternal IGF-system and later infant growth.
This population-based study will be implemented in a rural setting in Bangladesh where poor maternal nutritional status is common. We aim to investigate maternal nutritional status and the IGF-system in relation to fetal growth, infant size at birth, body composition and infant growth. We will use different indicators of maternal nutritional status (body weight, length and body composition). Fetal growth will be measured by ultrasound and infant body composition by skinfolds. Our proposed study may give more insight into these complex relationsships and increase our understanding of fetal growth regulation. This will  help designing appropriate nutrition interventions by identifying who benefits most, and when interventions would be most successful. More information on the Swedish Research Links grants 2015.

Previous South Asia related research on International Child Health and Nutrition

   – by Lars-Åke Persson

For many years, Professor Lars-Åke Persson and his research group have been involved in two major Bangladesh related research projects, one on ”Arsenic in drinking water and public health consequences”, and another one entitled ”MINIMat trial, Bangladesh”. They have resulted in a number of PhD theses at the department.
The first project deals with the health hazards caused by arsenic contaminated wells in Bangladesh, and has been carried out in collaboration with BRAC in Bangladesh, and with Professor Marie Vahter, at the Division of Metals & Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. In November 2005 Prof. Persson received SEK 1.15 Million as a two-years (2006-07) research grant from Sida/SAREC for a project titled ”Effect of arsenic exposure through drinking water on reproductive outcome and child survival: epidemiological studies in Bangladesh”.
The second project is a major research project on Poverty and Health, entitled ”Pre- and postnatal influence on chronic disease risk and immune function in early childhood: follow-up of the ‘MINIMat’ maternal food and micronutrient supplementation study in Bangladesh”. This project was given SEK 1.3 Million as a three-years grant (2006-08) from the Swedish Research Council in November 2005, and 1.05 Million from Sida/SAREC. 

– More information about the Arsenic in drinking water project.
– More information about the Matlab project

In August 2003 Lars Åke Persson was awarded 25 000 SEK as a SASNET planning grant as a contribution for a Network for Interventions against Maternal-Child Malnutrition in South Asia, and he got another planning grant for the same networking project in August 2004. During a 4-year period of work as director for the Public Health Sciences Division at ICDDR,B, Dhaka, Lars-Åke Persson took the initiative to initiate this network of scientists, and to develop specific intervention studies. An international workshop on Low Birth Weight at ICDDR,B in 1999 formed the background, and from 2001 a large inter-disciplinary intervention project is running, the MINIMat study (Maternal and Infant Nutrition Interventions in Matlab). A first joint meeting of the network was performed in October 2002, where the follow-up of functional consequences of the interventions for mother and child were discussed, as well as research training options for junior scientists from the region. The research projects has mainly been funded by UNICEF and DfID, while the networking and the research training lack organised funding and so far has been jointly achieved by support from the different participating departments and scientists. In May 2003 Persson returned to Sweden to take up the position as professor and chair in International Child Health at Uppsala University. He is keeping the role as the coordinator of the joint effort. More information on the network (as a pdf-file)

The planning grant was used for travelling to a network meeting in October 2003 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where progress of the collaborative studies was reviewed and plans for 2004 were developed. All different partners in the network were participating. They included paediatricians, nutrition epidemiologists, biochemists, health economists, toxicologists, public health specialists, gender specialists and bacteriologists in Sweden, in South Asia and Internationally. During 2003 recruitment to the joint study was still ongoing, but during 2004 a phase of analysis and reporting is initiated. A renewed SASNET planning grant for the same networking project was given in August 2004.
The grant was used for for meetings by parts of the group to analyse and discuss the results from the MINIMat study. Mahfuzar RahmanNazmul SohelShams El Arifeen and Ed Frongillo visited Uppsala during the period March–June 2005.

In October 2006, Prof. Persson received SEK 600 000 as a grant from Sida’s Developing Country Research Council for a doctorate project titled ”The impact of violence against women on reproductive outcome and child survival. Studies in Nicaragua and Bangladesh”. More information about Sida’s 2006 grants.

Lars-Åke Persson participated in the SASNET workshop on ”The role of South Asia in the internationalisation of higher education in Sweden held in Stockholm 28-29 November 2006, where he gave a presentation about IMCH experiences regarding recruitment of South Asian students in hard sciences in Sweden. Read Prof. Persson’s presentation at the workshop (as a pdf-file)

At the Sida-funded conference on current Swedish development research titled ”Meeting Global Challenges in Research Cooperation” that was jointly organised by Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala 27-29 May 2008 (more information), Prof. Persson chaired panel no. 2 on ”Improving maternal health and infant child survival”. Several of the research projects carried out within the department were presented, among them a project on ”Equity in birth weight improved by a food and micronutrient supplementation programme: a cluster randomized trial in Bangladesh”, carried out in collaboration with Eva-Charlotte Ekström and A. M. Waheedul Hoque from the same department; Shams El Arifeen and DS Alam from ICDDR,B in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Yuki Shirioshi from UNICEF; and Zeba Mahmud from BRAC, Bangladesh. The study was conducted in two rural sub-districts; Kapasia and Chowdagram in Bangladesh where a National nutrition programme including prenatal food and multiple micronutrient supplementation was to start.
Abstract: Public health efforts to improve maternal and foetal nutrition has included prenatal iron-folate supplementation. Recently multiple micronutrient supplementation (1) has been tested in trials to improve impact on pregnancy outcome. So far, the effects on birth weight are mixed. In settings with high prevalence of maternal malnutrition, food supplementation may also be required (2). The effectiveness of food supplementations in a large scale setting is frequently questioned. As energy and micronutrient deficiencies may co-exist, combinations of food and multiple micronutrient supplements may be required for improved fetal growth. The objective is to evaluate the impact on birth weight of a combination of prenatal food and multiple micronutrient supplementation in a large scale national programme setting.

   – by other researchers

Professor Eva-Charlotte Ekström has coordinated a project related to prenatal food and micronutrient supplementation in Bangladesh. In 2003 she received a planning grant from Sida/SAREC for a project titled ”Are there sustained nutritional benefits of prenatal food and micronutrient supplementation över the reproductive cycle?”.

In November 2005, then PhD candidate Hanna Eneroth received SEK 1.2 Million as a doctorate project grant for two years (2006-07) from Sida/SAREC for a project titled ”Effects of exclusive breastfeeding and prenatal micronutrient supplementation on micronutrient status of infants where low birth weight is prevalent”. In November 2007, additional SEK 1.2 million was given for the period 2009-09 by Sida’s Developing Country Research Council (U-landsforskningsrådet) for the same project. More information about the Sida grants 2007.

Project abstract: abstract In a setting with high prevalence of intrauterine growth restriction we will assess whether exclusive breastfeeding(EBF) results in better infant micronutrient(MN) status and if prenatal supplement with multiple MN provide benefits in addition to iron-folic supplement. MN deficiencies are common in the study population and in infancy they can lead to impaired immune function, impaired cognitive and neurological development and restriction of growth. 1000 samples of breast milk and blood at 6 months have been collected in a randomised food- and MN supplementation and EBF promotion trial in Bangladesh. It is expected that EBF will increase MN intake and decrease MN requirements and losses due to reduced infections. Prenatal multiple MN will improve MN status at birth and increase the content of selected MN in breast milk. Thus the interventions will result in an optimized infant MN status.

This project was also presented at the Sida-funded conference on current Swedish development research titled ”Meeting Global Challenges in Research Cooperation” that was jointly organised by Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala 27-29 May 2008 (more information). The collaboration partners in the project also include Dr. Iqbal Kabir and Dr. Mohammad Bakhtiar Hossain from the Child Health Unit at ICDDR,B in Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Prof. Bo Lönnerdal, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, USA.

In June 2006 Dr. Ekström received SEK 600 000 as a two-years grant from Sida’s Support to HIV/Aids research programme, for a project titled ”Role of infant feeding peer counsellors in prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV”. More information.

PhD Shams El Arifeen, gender specialist and sociologist from Bangladesh, is taking part in the Networking programmes (sponsored by SASNET) mentioned above. Arifeen is involved with a study of what is called MINIMat (Maternal and Infant Nutrition Interventions in Matlab), where 4,500 women in the Matlab District of Bangladesh have been randomized to different forms of nutritional and trace element supplement during pregnancy. He is now working at ICDDR,B in Dhaka. He is participating in the research project about the health hazards caused by arsenic contaminated wells in Bangladesh, along with Prof. Lars-Åke Persson, and Prof. Marie VahterDivision of Metals & Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine; Karolinska Institutet. More information.
Dr. Arifeen is involved in the project on Equity in birth weight improved by a food and micronutrient supplementation programme”, presented above.

PhD Ruchira Naved, Child health epidemiologist from Bangladesh, is responsible for a study on Violence against women in Bangladesh. It is part of coordinated studies carried out in several countries around the World by the World Health Organization, WHO. IMCH is involved with this study and also planning for follow-up studies.
In November 2004 the department received a major two-years grant for this research project on ”Impact of violence against women on reproductive outcome and child survival. Studies in Nicaragua and Bangladesh”. More information.

Dr. Anisur Rahman has worked on arsenic exposure in pregnancy and effects on foetus and child. Dr. Rahman has also been affiliated to the Division of Metals & Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine; Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. Anisur Rahman defended his doctoral dissertation project titled ”Prenatal Arsenic Exposure and Consequences for Pregnancy Outcome and Infant Health: Epidemiological Studies in Bangladesh” on Tuesday 19 May 2009. The faculty opponent was Prof. Gunnar Nordberg, Dept of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University.
Abstract: The aim of this thesis has been to analyse possible effects of prenatal arsenic exposure on foetal and infant health. The setting is Bangladesh, where two cohorts were studied, both part of a health and demographic surveillance system in Matlab. A historical cohort 1991–2000 included 29,134 pregnant women with information on drinking water sources and arsenic testing of tube well water. A prospective cohort study included pregnant women 2002–2003 where urinary arsenic concentrations were assessed twice during pregnancy; 2,924 women and their pregnancy outcomes were evaluated for foetal loss, perinatal and infant mortality; 1,578 mother-infant pairs were analysed for size at birth; and 1,552 were analysed for morbidity during infancy. More information.

Waheedul HoquePhD candidate Waheedul Hoque (photo to the right) has worked on effects nutrition interventions in pregnancy on the women’s nutritional status, and possible effects into the next pregnancy. Dr. Hoque, also working at ICDDR,B in Dhaka, is involved in the project on Equity in birth weight improved by a food and micronutrient supplementation programme”, presented above.

PhD candidate Ashraful Islam Khan has worked on a dissertation project entited ”The effect of prenatal nutrition interventions on childhood growth and body composition at 5 years. The MINIMat trial in rural Bangladesh”. He is supervised by Prof. Lars Åke Persson, and Dr Iqbal Kabir, Clinical Sciences Division, ICDDR,B, Dhaka. More information.

Ongoing South Asia related research on International Maternal and Reproductive Health

Most of the IMCH researchers are organised in the Research group on International Maternal and Reproductive Health, headed by Professor Birgitta Essén. They are mostly working on Africa related projects, but also deal with one major India related project and another Sri Lanka related project.The India project is entitled ”Increasing Access to Comprehensive Abortion Care in the Public Health System, India”, and is funded by Sida. The IMCH researchers involved are Professor Birgitta Essén, Dr. Gunilla Aneblom, and Research assistant Amal Omer Salim,but the project also involves researhers from other Swedish universities: Professor Kristina Gemzell, Karolinska Institutet (KI); Senior Lecturer Marie Klingberg Allvin, Högskolan Dalarna; and PhD candidate Susanne Sjöberg, KI.

The Indian collaboration partners are Vinoj Manning, Research Assistant at IPAS in New Delhi; and Suneeta Mittal, Professor Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at All India Institute of Medical Science and the WHO-collaborating centre in New Delhi.
Project description: India as a middle-income country has reduced maternal mortality over the years. However, the contribution of unsafe abortion in relation to overall maternal death is still very high (20%) despite efforts made on both societal and legal levels. Our hypothesis is, that lack of distribution of health providers, as well as their attitudes toward abortion and low access to medical abortion as an alternative to surgical abortion, remain major barriers to safe abortion. A four-armed randomised control trial is planned to study the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of a simplified procedure of medical abortion, including contraceptive counselling, as are exploratory studies of midlevel providers and physicians’ knowledge and attitudes about abortion in general. More information about the project

In November 2011, Professor Birgitta Essén received SEK 750 000 as a three year grant (2012-14) from the Swedish Research Links programme (funded by Sida and the Swedish Research Council) for a collaborative research project entitled ”Management of a simplified procedure of medical abortion in India. Facility based RCT studies to improve womens access to safe abortion service” in collaboration with Dr. Suneeta Mittal, All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Delhi. More information on the Swedish Research Links grants 2012
Project abstract: India has reduced their maternal mortality over the years. However, the contribution of unsafe abortion in relation to the all over maternal death is till very high (20%) despite efforts made on both societal and legal levels. One problem related to abortion care in middle-income countries, is the lack of distribution of physicians as well as access of medical abortion (MA) as an alternative to surgical abortion. It has been shown in other settings that midlevel provider’s involvement in MA care increases women’s access to safe abortion. The MA is however time and resource consuming for both patient and providers and the health sector has been slow in implementing MA. Therefore, a simplified procedure of MA has been suggested as a safe alternative. Our hypothesis is that the simplified procedure would increase acceptability among both providers and women. There is no study published on the safety of a simplified procedure in MA or the involvement of midlevel providers in India. The aim is to study the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of a simplified procedure of MA, provided to women by midlevel providers or physicians. The design is a four-armed randomised control trial. The main outcome measure is successful completion of abortion. The long-term is to provide evidence based information that will contribute to the development of strategies to increase women’s access to a higher level of abortion care and attempting to contribute to the MDG 5.

Pia Olsson

 
Malin Jordal
  Pia Olsson, Kumudu Wijewardena and Malin Jordal.

The Sri Lanka project deals with Sexual and Reproductive Health, and is entitled ”Reproductive health risks, gender and women’s internal migration in Sri Lanka”. It has been coordinated by Associate Professor Pia Olsson (photo) and also involved Professor Birgitta Essén, and PhD candidate Malin Jordal at IMCH. The srilankan collaboration partner is Professor Kumudu Wijewardena, Department of Community Health, University of Jayewardenapura.
Kumudu Wijewardena was a Guest Professor at IMCH during the period June–December 2009.
She has had a special relation to SASNET, since she is a member of SASNET’s South Asian Reference group, more information.
Project description: Young women migrating from rural areas to work in urban factories is a growing phenomenon in Free trade zones (FTZ) in Sri Lanka and worldwide. This contributes to increased economic independence of women and poverty reduction in countries. However, negative sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) consequences as harassment, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions are reported. This research program has a qualitative design and aims at understanding strategies in handling changing gender relations and SRHR risks of young, unmarried women migrating from rural to urban factory areas. Interviews and group discussions will be done with women working in FTZs, and men residing in or near the FTZ areas. The knowledge generated will be used for in community SRHR programs, refinement of curricula for nurses, doctors, social scientists and for theory development. More information about the project

Malin Jordal defended her doctoral dissertation on ”Living Up to the Ideal of Respectability: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Implications for Unmarried Migrant Workers, Single Mothers, and Women in Prostitution in Sri Lanka” on Friday 23 May 2014.
The faculty examiner was Senior Research Professor Jeanne Marecek (photo), Department of Psychology, Stanford University, USA. Venue: Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala. 
Malin Jordal was originally a Norwegian nurse. Her PhD dissertation project aims to explore and describe female factory workers’ perception of reproductive health issues in Free Trade Zones in Sri Lanka. Thirteen female factory workers from two Free Trade Zones in Sri Lanka were interviewed using in-depth and semi structured interviews in order to gather as great a range and depth in perceptions as possible. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the interview transcripts, and eight categories and twenty-nine sub-categories were identified during the analysis. The results show that female factory workers in FTZ in Sri Lanka face various challenges, concerns.
Abstract: The thesis aims to gain a deeper understanding of relationships and sexuality of women at risk of social exclusion in Sri Lanka and the risk of violations of their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) that they might face. Individual qualitative interviews with migrant women workers (n=18) and men (n=18) in the Free Trade Zone (FTZ), women facing single motherhood (n=28) and women formerly involved in prostitution (n=15) were conducted. Conceptual approaches included gender, social navigation and SRHR. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis, qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis. Findings revealed that the migrant women workers negotiated norms of respectability in a society that highly stigmatizes FTZ women workers, while the men identified conflicting constructions of masculinity existing in the FTZ. The women facing single motherhood navigated oppressive and stigmatizing social forces, and the women in prostitution constructed themselves as respectable in opposition to their societal disvalue and marginalization. In order to retain an image of sexual innocence, unmarried women are likely to refrain from demanding or demonstrating SRHR knowledge and accessing services. Furthermore, gender power imbalances leave the women vulnerable to sexual persuasion, coercion and violence. Once pregnant, social, legal, and knowledge barriers hinder or delay them in accessing abortion services. Unmarried pregnant women are thus left with the alternatives of adoption, infanticide, and suicide or become stigmatized single mothers with risks of health and social exclusion for mother and child. Extreme marginalization and limited power make women in prostitution vulnerable to unsafe sex, rape and violence. In conclusion, these women are likely to face numerous and serious SRHR hazards. The complexity of gendered social circumstances and the SRHR implications demonstrated in this thesis, add to the SRHR knowledge in Sri Lanka, and should inform politicians and policy makers about the need to improve the situation of all women in Sri Lanka. More information with link to full-text thesis

Pia Olsson, Kumudu Wijewardena, Marie Klingberg Allvin, Birgitta Essén and Katarina Swahnberg.

Since SASNET has had frequent contacts with the IMCH at Uppsala University for many years, including co-organising a workshop on Women and Migration in Sri Lanka in 2009 (more information), SASNET deputy director Lars Eklund attended Malin’s dissertation in May 2014.
There he met so many networking partners not only from IMCH itself and Uppsala University – including Malin’s main supervisor Pia Olsson, Prof. Birgitta Essén, and Dr. Marie Klingberg Allvin – but also researchers within the field of health at other Swedish universities such as Dr. Katarina Swahnberg from Linnaeus University campus Kalmar, being member of examination committee. The guests of honour included Prof. Kumudu Wijewardena from University of Colombo, who has been Malin’s supervisor in Sri Lanka. Kumudu was a member of SASNET’s South Asian Reference Group that existed till 2010 (more information).

At the following festivitities at Vasasalen in the Uppsala Castle, Lars also met many of the international PhD candidates affiliated to IMCH on sandwich programmes, from Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, and not the least from India or of Indian origin.
Among them were Mandira Paul and Paridhi Jha (on photo to the right). Mandira has worked on a project simplified medical abortion and contraceptive use in rural areas of Rajasthan, India” (more information below). 
Paridhi is Midwifery professional from Chhattisgarh state, with long experience of clinical, research and teaching experience.
Another Indian PhD candidate at the time was Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil (photo above), working on a project entitled ”Daily life and well-being of immigrant detainees in Sweden”.

PhD candidate Mandira Paul is working on a project entitled “Simplifying reproductive health in low-resource settings – Access to medical abortion and contraceptive choice, the importance of gendered structures in Rajasthan”. She will defend her doctoral thesis on Monday 11 January 2016, at 13.00. Venue: Gustavianum, Uppsala University. 
The project is focusing on medical abortion and contraceptive use among rural and urban women in Rajasthan, with an aim to simplify medical abortion and make it more acceptable to women as well as to health care providers. Simplifying and demedicalising medical abortion can decrease service costs and make services more affordable to women in low-resource settings. Moreover, combining medical abortion with contraceptive counseling and health promotion may enhance women’s motivation to adapt a contraceptive method post-abortion. In addition, making abortion services more acceptable to women may motivate women to seek future reproductive health care services from the public health system, something that is not widely seen today. Read more about the dissertation project.
Mandira has been supervised by Associate professor Marie Klingberg-Allvin, Professor Birgitta Essén and Professor Kristina Gemzell-Danielsson.

On 30 October 2014, Dr. Mats Målqvist was granted SEK 750 000 as a Swedish Research Links grant from the Swedish Research Council for a three-year Bangladesh related project (2015-17) entitled ”Scaling-up interventions for quality of care improvements in the field of maternal and child health care in Nepal”. The project will be carried out in collaboration with Kedar Baral, Patan Academy of Health Sciences in Nepal. Swedish Research Links grants were introduced by Sida and the Swedish Research Council in 2002, with an aim to stimulate cooperation between researchers in Sweden and those in selected developing countries. From 2013, The Swedish Research Council has taken over the responsibility for all Swedish development research. Read more. The long-term aim of the programme is to contribute to mutual scientific and socioeconomic development of the countries involved through funding for support to collaborative research projects of high scientific quality and mutual relevance.
VetenskapsrådetProject abstract: This project will be carried out in Nepal in collaboration with Nepalese partners. The objective is to develop capacity and collaboration on health care system research in and between Nepal and Sweden. This will be done through a series of intervention studies focusing on improvements in quality of care in the arena of maternal and child health care. This will be achieved through collaboration between UNICEF, Uppsala University (UU) and Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS) in Kathmandu.   UU and PAHS have since 2012 collaborated on a hospital-based intervention trial implementing a simplified neonatal resuscitation protocol (Helping Babies Breath, HBB) at a tertiary level delivery hospital in Kathmandu. The study period for the trial was completed in September 2013. Preliminary results indicate a 53% reduction of intra-partum stillbirths and considerable improvements in the quality of delivery care. Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), which have commissioned UNICEF to scale up the HBB intervention at 40 district hospitals.  We plan to design a series of research studies investigating different approaches on the implementation of QoC enhancing interventions. Considering the programmatic approach in the call for applications the researchers intend to integrate a number of research trials over the program period, thus being able to use synergies and develop a critical mass for the Swedish-Nepalese research collaboration.

Previous South Asia related research on International Maternal and Reproductive Health

Lanka projectUnder a SIDA/SAREC grant a multidisciplinary research programme on “Health and Social Care for the Socially Marginalized People” has been carried out in collaboration between IMCH and the Dept. of Community Medicine at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura during the period 2003–2010.
The project was initiated after a 2002 call by the University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka for research proposals from all universities to be funded under a Sida/SAREC agreement. The proposal submitted by the Faculty of Medical Sciences University of Sri Jayewardenepura under the heading Health and Social Care for Socially Marginalized People was one of the new projects selected. The research programme was planned as a collaboration between Sri Jayewardenepura University, Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, and Uppsala University, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), in Sweden because of already existing cooperation and personal contacts. The program activities started 2004. The final report was published in August 2010. Read the report (as a pdf-file) 

The programme was coordinated by Prof. Gunilla Lindmark at IMCH, and Prof. Kumudu Wijewardena, Dean for the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Sri Jayewardenapura University, Colombo, Sri Lanka (who previously were also involved in IMCH’s South Asian Network on Adolescent Health project, described above – read about it).
Sri Lanka womenProject description: Emphasis has been given for gender equity, violence against women and children, social issues related to Middle East migrant female workers, and issues of war widows and orphans. Swedish researchers and graduate students work in close collaboration with the Sri Lanka group and implement studies together in Sri Lanka; related to social and health issues of socially marginalized people.

A number of PhD thesis projects were carried out under the project.
• Dr Lukumar: Mental Health Of Adolescent School Children (14–15 years) in Jaffna District and some of their Psychosocial correlates.
• Dr M V F Jayasuriya: The Prevalence of intimate partner violence in Western Province of Sri Lanka, Risk Factors Coping Mechanisms and hospital based intervention programme.
• Dr A Samaranayaka: The effects of an intervention to promote competence in providing quality care at labour.
• Dr H Waidyasekara: Menopausal symptoms, quality of life, postural balance and cognitive functions in community based population of Sri Lankan Women.
• Dr D C Hewage: The effect of overseas maternal employment on the Executive Functions of Children.
• Dr S W Wimalasekara: A Study of cognitive Function and Iron Nutritional Status in Adolescent Females in Sri Lanka.
• Dr B C V Senarathana: Psychological Health of the Migrant Workers’ Children.
• Dr Amanthi Bandusena: Children aged eighteen months at Risk of Mental Disability in the Colombo District: Validation of a screening tool, their Parents’ Perceptions on their Roles and Needs in Care Giving and Facilities currently available for them.
• Dr Arul Kumaran: Perinatal Mortality Rate, Causes, Service Facilities and Mothers Perception in District of Sri Lanka.
• Dr P Jayathilaka: Prevalence and Risk Factors for Adolescent Violence Behavior and to assess effects of an intervention to reduce Violence Behavior in School Children living in Colombo South Area.
• Dr Nayana Fernando: Influence of Parents Alcoholism on their Adolescent Children Health.

Following qualitative studies were carried out under SIDA/SAREC grant by senior researchers in the department of Community Medicine:
1. Health and social issues of single pregnant women
2. Health and social issues of single women under going termination of pregnancy.
3. Health and social issues of commercial sex workers (at a rehabilitation centers).

Within the framework of the ‘Health and Social care for Socially Marginalised People’ project, IMCH and the Dept. of Community Medicine at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura jointly organised an International Conference on Effective Interventions for Domestic Violence against Women, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 9–11 May 2006. The conference had the theme ”Strategies to Combat” and with two days of sessions dealing with the current situation – including a presentation by Dr. Henrica Jansen of the WHO multi-country study on Women’s health and domestic violence against women; Regional experiences – from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Philippines. On the final day a conference titled ”What Interventions Work?” was held.
Several IMCH researchers came for the conference, including Prof. Gunilla Lindmark, Dr. Ruchira Tabassum Naved, and Dr. Pia Axemo – senior lecturer at the department. Prof. Barbro Wijma and Dr. Katharina Svanberg from the Division of Gender and Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, also participated in the conference, presenting results from their NORVOLD study (the Nordic Research Research Initiative on Violence against Women). See the full conference programme (as a pdf-file)

Colombo workshopAs part of this programme, IMCH also organised a workshop on ”Women and Migration in South Asia – Health and Social Consequences” in collaboration with Sri Jayewardenapura University, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and SASNET in February 2009. The workshop was held in Colombo. More information about the workshop.

On Wednesday 16 December 2009, a seminar to share experiences from the programme was organised. During the seminar, presentations were given by the coordinators Kumudu Wijewardena and Gunilla Lindmark, but also from several of the researchers involved in the research programme, e g Pia AxemoTord NaessénPia Olsson and Aida Aragao LagergrenSee the seminar program.

Gunilla Lindmark

Professor Emeritus Gunilla Lindmark (photo to the left) was given a research planning grant from SASNET in August, 2002, for a project called ”Promoting adolescent reproductive health: Networking in Asia”. The network intends to give an opportunity to promote and utilise knowledge and contacts between participants from four South Asian countries (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and Sweden. The idea of creating a network originated from former Asian participants and facilitators in Sida-sponsored courses on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), organised by the department since 1992 (more information, see below).
The grant was used to organise a planning workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 10–11 February 2003 (hosted by Professor Kumudu Wijewardena chairman of the Department of Community Health, University of Jayewardenapura (and formerly a visiting professor at IMCH), and resulted in the setting-up of SANAH (South Asian Network on Adolescent Health). The focal point of SANAH was decided to be Sri Lanka, where a secretariat will be formed under the UNICEF Adolescent Health Program Officer in Colombo, Dr Harischandra Yakandawala, and with IMCH being the focal point for the Swedish contribution to the network. The goal for SANAH’s activities will be to achieve optimum health and development among adolescent in South Asian sountries with emphasis on sexual and reproductive health. Further contacts have later been taken between MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child in New Delhi, India; the WHO Regional office; and IMCH, to develop the SANAH network. Besides IMCH has entered into a formal research and training collaboration with the University of Jayewardenapura, and one of the topics is adolescent health. More information about the Sri Lanka collaboration.

In November 2005 Prof. Gunilla Lindmark received SEK 400 000 as a two-years (2006-07) research grant from Sida/SAREC for a South Asia related project titled ”Does counselling of abused women using primary level health care promoters help the women?”. More information on Sida funded South Asia related research projects in 2005.

Associate Professor Pia Olsson coordinated a research project titled ”Adolescent childbearing and abortion in Sri Lanka. A qualitive interview investigation”. In November 2005 she received SEK 600 000 from Sida/SAREC as a two-years grant (2006-07) for this project. More information on Sida funded South Asia related research projects in 2005.
The project was carried out in collaboration with Prof. Kumudu Wijewardena, and it was also presented at the Sida-funded conference on current Swedish development research titled ”Meeting Global Challenges in Research Cooperation” that was jointly organised by Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala 27-29 May 2008 (more information).
Abstract: Induced abortion in Sri Lanka is permitted only on strict maternal health indication. However a great number of women undergo abortions on other indications at relatively well established clinics. Single motherhood is not culturally accepted and there is no state welfare system to support single mothers. The process of deciding on abortion is unclear and factors contributing to the decision are unexplored from the women’s perspective. The aim of the study was to describe the circumstances of becoming pregnant, the process of making the decision on abortion and the reasons for seeking abortion in a sample of unmarried women in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Participants were recruited from a centre for reproductive health services in Colombo, where trained doctors conducted terminations under sterile conditions, up to 12 gestational weeks. Individual qualitative research interviews were carried out with 19 women, 18-30 years of age. Ethical clearance was obtained and the informants gave their informed consent.

Pia Olsson was also involved in the major Sida funded projects on reproductive and child health in India, that IMCH administered in Rajasthan, India. Dr. Olsson has made a study on ”Adolescents’ perceptions on sexuality and reproductive health risks. A qualitative study in rural Rajasthan, India”. It was presented at the Sida-funded conference on current Swedish development research titled ”Meeting Global Challenges in Research Cooperation” that was jointly organised by Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala 27-29 May 2008 (more information).
Abstract:In rural Rajasthan female literacy is low, early and arranged marriages are practiced, maternal mortality is high and the HIV epidemic is advancing. Unmarried adolescents’ sexuality is not culturally recognized which make them vulnerable for reproductive health problems. Adolescents’ perceptions are important when designing adequate and acceptable sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) programs. The aim of the study was to describe adolescents’ perceptions on sexuality, pregnancies and STI/HIV as preparation for SRHR interventions in rural Rajasthan. Both adolescents boys and girls turned out to discuss sexual issues with great openness in the FGDs. They described premarital sexuality as important in their lives. It was reported that most boys had sex secretly with girlfriends or with girls they paid. Boys experienced double roles as boyfriends and guardians of sisters’ and family reputation. The adolescents got information on sex and reproduction from media and friends but seldom from parents. They wanted their parents to have more knowledge about SRHR issues and to be more open to discuss dilemmas of traditional norms on SRHR. Premarital pregnancies were perceived as dangerous but worth the pleasure of having sex, according to the boys who usually got out of the problem with the honor intact. Girls were also reported to enjoy sex but also to be punished by their families in case of a pregnancy since she dishonored the entire family. The risks of late abortions were highlighted by girls. The adolescents had heard of contraceptives but such were seldom accessible. Superficial knowledge and misconceptions about STI/HIV were revealed for example combining vaginal wash with anti-malarial drugs to prevent STI. Boys perceived that girls with knowledge about STI/HIV were difficult to attract for sex.

Other IMCH collaboration projects with India

In March 2005 the Swedish Government decided on a new country strategy for India for the period 2005-2009. The strategy implied a new kind of co-operation between Sweden in India mainly focusing on technical assistance and building partnerships of mutual interests between Swedish and Indian actors. The focus areas were: Respect for democracy and human rights; Environmental protection that will benefit the poor; and Scientific cooperation in selected areas that will benefit the poor. In light of the comparative advantage that Sweden has in Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights, Children’s Rights and HIV/AIDS, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, therefore supported and allocated funds to a number of projects and partnerships involving Swedish universities.
IMCH has been involved in two of these projects being funded by Sida:

Project name: Integrating social support for reproductive and child health and rights, Phase II
Sida contribution: SEK 15 million for the period June 2005 – June 2010
Reproductive HealthProject partners: A network of ten NGOs in Rajasthan viz. Sara, Prayatna Sansthan, Tilonia Shodh evam Vikas Sansthan, Vihaan, Vishakha, Manthan, Kumarappa Institute of Gram Swaraj, Family Planning Association India, Humana People to People, and with its secretariat at Aadhar Research Institute in Jaipur, are working together for reproductive and child health and rights (RCHR).
Project description: The program has developed links with the International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), Uppsala University, Sweden. The project attempts to respond to the health needs of the poor by generating a demand for health services among women, men and adolescents and also strengthening links with the public health system and local governance to respond to these needs. The key programme strategies include strengthening and developing an approach of networking, community participation in local governance impacting RCHR, institutional linkages and advocacy for influencing policy environment to improve access to quality and gender-sensitive health services in rural areas and for everyone to realise their right to health.
In view of the competitive edge of IMCH, in addition to providing technical support and guidance to the network, the partnership will undertake community-based research and thereby increase knowledge and understanding of key issues in maternal and child health in resource-poor settings.
By end of the project period, community groups at village and Panchayat levels will be strengthened to generate demand and ensure that reproductive and child health services reach the target groups as their right. The project will also ensure that sustainable institutional linkages are formed between the various key stakeholders along with an enabling policy environment, and that the network is firmed up in terms of structure, functioning and capacity.

Project name: Increasing Access to Comprehensive Abortion Care Services in India
Sida contribution: SEK 10 million for the period December 2005 – June 2009
Project partners:The project is implemented by a consortium of organisations/institutions that include Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), FPA India/International Planned Parenthood Federation, International Unit Maternal and Child Health (IMCH) Uppsala University, Indian Society of Midwives, Population Council and Ipas, who also coordinates the programme.
Project description: The consortium members are established organisations involved in working on safe abortion issues either nationally, regionally or globally. Project brief The overall goal of the project is to increase access to legal, safe and comprehensive abortion services, that also includes post-abortion family planning services, in the public health system with focus on the rural poor and thereby contribute to the reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity and enhance women’s ability to exercise their SRHR at both public and private health delivery systems in the country.
The project also aims to strengthen collaborations with Swedish institutes/organisations in the area of advocacy, medical abortion and involvement of midlevel providers. Given the controversy related to abortions, the collaborative effort build on the strengths and capacities individual members/organisations, will gain in advocate efforts. Apart from developing effective district level model for comprehensive abortion care in the public health system for improving supply-demand of safe and legal abortion services, the project will develop pilot models for expanding the provider base and technology choices for safe abortion services and thereby enable changes in policy, legal and implementation framework. Moreover, considering the involvement of a variety of organizations, a significant outcome could be the strengthening of partnerships and developing a common understanding and vision for a long term impact. The Packard Foundation co-funds the project.

Other Sri Lanka collaboration projects:

The arrangement by which IMCH master’s students travel to Sri Lanka for their data collection is only one of several ways in which IMCH is now collaborating with the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Other collaborations that have developed include the following:

• Staff from the two institutions are working together within the Southeast Asian collaborative research network on adolescent sexuality.
• IMCH is a major partner in a research capacity building programme at University of Sri Jayewardenepura on social aspects of health. The programme, which is financed by Sida and will extend over several years, involves the exchange of teachers, researchers, and students between the two institutions, with some Sri Lankan students earning PhD degrees on a ‘sandwich’ arrangement. Five young Sri Lanka doctors have already spent time at IMCH this year, taking formal courses and also receiving guidance in their research from IMCH research staff.
• Research on the war in Sri Lanka, focused on the role of the foreign NGOs and foreign medical volunteers, is being done through IMCH’s Centre for Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance. The researcher, who went to Sri Lanka to carry out interviews with the volunteers was Magdalena Bjerneld. She defended her doctoral dissertation titled ”Images, Motives, and Challenges for Western Health Workers in Humanitarian Aid” on Wednesday 17 May 2009. The faculty opponent was Prof. Lars Dahlgren, Division of Epidemiology and Public Health Science, Umeå University. The thesis presents how humanitarian aid workers were attracted, motivated, recruited, and prepared for fieldwork, and how they reported their work experience directly from the field and when they returned home. Data were derived from interviews with experienced aid workers, focus group discussions with presumptive aid workers, analysis of letters from aid workers in the field on MSFs homepages in Europe, and from interviews with recruitment officers at some of the main humanitarian organisations. More information.

 

INFORM (International Network for Online Resources & Materials)

In 2003, information activities at IMCH were consolidated into INFORM (International Network for Online Resources and Materials), with the aim of delivering health information training not only in Sweden but also onsite in lower-income countries. Among the first countries to arrange INFORM workshops was Sri Lanka, where four workshops were run at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura between 2003 and 2006.
In addition, INFORM continued to develop and deliver training for ITPs associated with IMCH. One of these was the ITP on child survival held at Uppsala in the spring of 2007, with participants from eight Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Another was the autumn 2007 ITP on strengthening midwifery competence, which was organized by Karolinska Institute in collaboration with the Swedish Association of Midwives and IMCH. The midwives participating in the training were from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as five other Asian countries.

MarthaThe programme is led by IMCH researcher Dr Martha J Garrett (photo), and Anders Wändahl, a librarian at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.
INFORM’s first training in South Asia was commissioned by Professor Kumudu Wijewardene at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka (more about Prof. Wijewardena, see above). INFORM trainers have also been involved in information training in other SASNET countries, including India (for the Reproductive and Child Health and Rights Network in Jaipur, Rajasthan), Afghanistan (for the Afghanistan Midwives Association), and Pakistan (for the Higher Education Commission at Dow Medical University in Karachi and for the Ministry of Health at the Health Services Academy in Islamabad). Grants from SASNET have helped to finance some of this work.

Outside the SASNET region, INFORM has provided information training in China for the Raoul Wallenberg Institute—on the topic of international law and human rights—and in Vietnam, where INFORM-trained master trainers are now providing workshops for doctors throughout the country.

INFORM’s next major activity will be a regional programme in Asia. Health professionals working on reproductive health and maternal-and-child health in 10-12 Asian countries, mostly in south Asia, will receive intensive training about where to find free, high-quality materials for teaching, clinical practice and policy formulation. After the training, they will carry out their own information projects and also exchange information through an online forum. INFORM has invited SASNET to be a partner in the programme.
More information about INFORM can be found online at the programme’s new website at http://www.inform-network.org.
Some of INFORM’s many sourcebooks are also available at the same site and can be downloaded free-of-charge.

Lanka workshopSASNET has been strongly involved in the development of INFORM.
Already in August 2002, SASNET provided a planning grant to Dr. Martha Garrett, to enhance this educational collaboration project, that was then planned together with Professor Wijewardene. This project aimed to give master’s students at IMCH the possibility to carry out their data collection for their master’s studies in Sri Lanka, under the local supervision of that university’s medical faculty.
The first data collection to be done under the arrangement was carried out during the spring term 2004 by Ms. Alemnesh Mirkuzie, an Ethiopian nurse in the Master’s Programme in International Health at IMCH. The research led to a master’s report entitled ‘Health Care Providers’ Perceptions of Adolescent Reproductive Health Problems in Colombo, Sir Lanka’. A scientific article based on the research and co-authored by Ms Mirkuzie, Professor Wijewardene, and Dr Pia Olsson (the IMCH advisor) was being prepared for publication. A workshop was held in Sri Lanka in 2006, see photo.

India workshopIn August 2007, Dr. Garrett received SEK 150 000 as another SASNET Planning grant for an educational programme, now to set up a ”Regional Networking for Information on Child Survival”. See the full list of SASNET planning grants 2007.
INFORM was also able to get support from several other funding sources in addition to the SASNET planning grant. This made it possible for Dr. Garrett and her team to lead three on-site workshops (see photo from an India workshop in 2009), and do network-building in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Later also, through another arrangement, training in India.
Read the final report for the SASNET funded INFORM regional project (as a pdf-file)
An INFORM team were supposed to visit Pakistan early 2010 for two more workshops if the situation at the universities allows it. Key persons committed to the network now work in countries throughout Asia, and new proposals for support are given to international funding agencies.

Library service and International collaboration

In support of its educational activities, IMCH maintains a library on health care in low-income countries, the largest such library in Scandinavia. The literature can be searched through Libris.
IMCH staff members do consultancy work for national and international organisations including WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank. The section also collaborates with other institutions in Sweden and throughout the world. In South Asia collaborative partners include the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India; BRAC; and Dhaka University in Bangladesh.

International Nutrition Research Group

For 19 years, until August 2004, Associate Professor Ted Greiner was working at the Dept. of Women’s and Children’s Health. He was Head of the separate International Nutrition Research Group. He now works as a Senior Nutritionist at the Programs for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH), Washington DC, USA. The International Nutrition Research Group has been amalgamated into Prof. Lars-Åke Persson’s research group on International Child Health and Nutrition
Ted Greiner has in the past worked in and published a lot of material on Bangladesh and India.
He has also been the team leader for a Sida evaluation and later for a review of its support to the Integrated Child Development Services in India, resulting in ”Reaching Out to Children in Poverty. The Integrated Child Development Services in Tamil Nadu, India” (contributions by Greiner, Brolin, Mittal, Puri, Paulraj and Gupta A) – Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Evaluation 00/02, 2000. A summary is found in Sida Evaluations Newsletter 3/00 (pdf-file).
Greiner represents Sida at ACC/SCN (The United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition); and works as a co-ordinator for the Research Task Force, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.
Ted Greiner is currently working as Professor of Nutrition at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. See Greiner’s personal web page

PhD Viveka Persson was a member of the International Nutrition Research Group, and was engaged in research on South Asia. She carried out a school based nutritional study in Bangladesh on the effect of anthelminthic treatment on vitamin A status during childhood. Viveka Persson defended her doctoral dissertation on 8 October 2001. The title of the thesis was ”Vitamin A intake, status and improvement using the dietary approach, Studies of vulnerable groups in three Asian countries”. The three Asian countries were India, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Abstract to be found at Uppsala University´s web site. Viveka Persson has later worked for Sida/SAREC.

Centre for Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance (PHHA)

The Centre for Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance, connected to International Maternal and Child Health, Dept of Women’s and Children’s Health, was established at the end of 2001, in response to clearly recognized needs and demands in Sweden for training, technical advice, research and a resource centre in this specialized area. Disaster affected populations, refugees and displaced persons are amongst the most disadvantaged in the world. They are often dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival. Globally, humanitarian crises are growing in scale and complexity. Most disasters have multiple impacts affecting different sectors and therefore require a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary response.
The Centre linked up with other disciplines that do not normally sit together, particularly those of Public health and nutrition, Economics, Disaster management, Peace and conflict studies, Cultural anthropology and Trans-cultural Psychiatry. While the main focus of the Centre is on Public Health in Humanitarian Assistance, it will link very closely with these other disciplines to facilitate a multi-disciplinary approach to disaster related studies.
PHHA was involved in running NOHA, an Erasmus Mundus Programme on International Humanitarian Aid.

Dr. Patricia M Diskett worked for some time at the Centre. Originally educated as a district nurse and midwife, she received her MSc in 1987, and in 1997 she defended her doctoral dissertation on ”Evidence-based decision-making and managerial chaos in population displacement emergencies. A Case Study of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh 1992-93” at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

She has worked for Oxfam for many years, eventually as coordinator of the Emergency Public Health Team for Oxfam’s UK office. As a Health Coordinator for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, she had responsibility for coordinating a health programme involving over 20 NGOs and serving over a quarter million refugees. Dr Diskett has had field assignments in Honduras, Somalia, Brazil, Bangladesh, Nepal, and most African countries. Her areas of expertise include disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, management, response and rehabilitation; population displacement emergencies; complex emergencies; drought, famine and floods; emergency health care systems and policies; disease and epidemic control strategies: nutrition and food security, international relief system; support of emergency public health teams; training and training needs assessments. She has done research and been an adviser for research projects in many of these topics and has also served on UNHCR and WHO advisory groups responsible for identifying research priorities in emergency public health.
Dr Diskett’s current research, which is supported by a Leverhulme grant, is on the challenges facing NGOs trying to implement emergency public health programmes in an environment where human rights abuses are committed by the controlling authorities.

Swedish Embassy seminar on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights research projects

The Swedish Embassy in New Delhi, India, organised a seminar for invited participants on ”Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights. Good practices and results achieved” on Tuesday 3 December 2013. It was being devoted to reports from several Indo-Swedish research collaboration projects during the past five years, since the Indian and Swedish governments signed its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of Health Care and Public Health in February 2009. Venue: India Habitat Centre, Maple Hall, New Delhi. 
The aim of the MoU (see the signed agreement) has been to promote bilateral cooperation between the countries in the field of health care and public health on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit. The cooperation includes medical education, and research on health and medicine. Sweden has been involved in the health sector in India for many years with a special focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights even before 2009, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has financed several major projects involving Swedish researchers for example at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University (more information). The character of development cooperation has however changed from traditional development cooperation towards partner driven cooperation, and a shift towards technical collaboration and exchange of knowledge and experiences. More information about the Swedish government’s policy
The invited Swedish researchers included Associate Professor Anette Agardh from Social Medicine and Global Health, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University; Professor Kyllike Christensson from the Division for Reproductive and Perinatal Health, Department of Woman and Child Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm; Dr Marie Klingberg Allvin from the Department of Public Health Sciences, also Karolinska Institutet; and Associate Professor Birgitta Essen from International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University. They are all involved in major Indo-Swedish research collaboration projects related to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and their Indian counterparts were also participating at the seminar to present their work. Dr Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, held a speech, and separate presentations were given by representatives for the Health Institute for Mother and Child (MAMTA), and the Breastfeeding Promotion Network in India (BPNI). See the full programme.