By Karima Ladhani, Founder & CEO
This April, the Barakat Bundle team attended the inaugural Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI) Summit hosted by the American India Foundation (AIF). In attendance were thought leaders from various institutions such as Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Stanford School of Medicine, Ariadne Labs, Merck for Mothers, Public Health Foundation of India, and the Tata group.
The Current State of Affairs
The summit began with an overview of current maternal and neonatal mortality levels as well as historical and projected future trends. Neonatal conditions account for 8.1% of the worldwide disease burden. This is greater than that of cancer and three times that of HIV/AIDS. The Lancet Every Newborn Series was cited multiple times, particularly with regards to 16 evidence-based interventions to reduce newborn mortality such as clean delivery practices and early and exclusive breastfeeding. Of course we cannot help but mention that Barakat Bundle includes many of these interventions – we have done our research!
“Enculturation”: A New Practice
We were particularly inspired by an insightful session by Dr. Gary Darmstadt. He discussed lessons learned from the Community Empowerment Lab in Shivgarh, Uttar Pradesh. This unique experiment involved no health provision but rather focused on the practice of “enculturating” science, i.e. turning basic scientifically-supported practices such as handwashing into cultural norms. He found that mothers favored actions that had visible effects – for example, when practicing recommended skin-to-skin contact to reduce hypothermia mothers realized that their babies stopped crying and they felt more connected. Another facet of his research findings was how the use of song and analogies in messaging resulted in higher uptake of recommended behaviors.
Context Specific Solutions
Many presenters noted the importance of context-specific local solutions. One particularly great line was, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was great to see culture brought to the forefront of public health practice because so much of Barakat Bundle’s human centered design approach is focused on using culture to inform product design and program operations. It was suggested that cultural adoption creates immediate sustainability and that is such a profoundly simple yet difficult way to think about program implementation that we hope we can master in Barakat Bundle’s journey.
Overall, the MANSI summit was an absolutely inspiring and informative event. Special thanks to conference chair Dr. Sunita Pereira, Dr. Priya Agrawal, Dr. Gary Darmstadt, and Prof. Srinath Reddy for sharing their insights on Barakat Bundle and motivating us to continue this journey.