Ono Mtoto Wako: Maternity and mortality

In 1976, the Indian government incentivized men to volunteer for vasectomies by rewarding volunteers with transistor radios. This example of incentive marketing worked. Tens of thousands of men took up the offer to get radios, which were worth a month’s pay and usually entered the black market. India was in the midst of a massive family-planning social marketing campaign. According to the Times of India, some aspects of that campaign were quite brutal and included forced sterilization, especially of Dalits, or members of the “untouchable” caste.

Today there are a variety of social marketing campaigns involving health. One of those campaigns is focused on world maternal mortality. According to World Health Organization statistics, 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The Lancet reports that in sub-Saharan Africa, the risk of dying of a maternal complication is one in 36. Although maternal deaths are gradually decreasing worldwide, maternal death rates during the last decade are increasing in the United States, which is the only developed nation experiencing such an increase, reports The Huffington Post.

The influential Aspen Institute has created the Aspen Ideas Award, which includes community public health as a funded topic. Two physicians who were trained in South Africa — Chrystelle Wedi, a Rhodes Scholar, and Kopano Matlwa Mabaso, who is also a published novelist — recently were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) named “Ono Mtoto Wako.”

Ono Mtoto Wako is a Swahili term that means “See Your Baby.” See Your Baby is a highly creative incentive marketing tool that doubles as a very effective maternal mortality preventative.

Mabaso and Wedi calculated that pregnant rural women in the DRC would be willing to walk for up to six hours to seek antenatal care if it meant that they could see their babies via ultrasonography. It worked. In the space of two weeks they saw 351 women in six different, very rural villages that essentially had no roads, minimal electricity and virtually no sanitation or clean water, reports Global Health Now.

At the temporary clinics, the pregnant women were checked for malaria, HIV, anemia and high blood pressure. Several of the women were discovered to have twins or a possible breech birth. Many were treated for malaria and given folic acid, and three women were sent to HIV clinics. In two weeks, the physicians had exhausted their $25,000 grant from the Aspen Institute with unserved DRC villages begging and fighting over the chance to See Their Babies.

Alfred Montoya, assistant professor in the sociology and anthropology department, and Robert Blystone of the biology department discuss a number of Ono Mtoto Wako-like developments in their team-taught course, “Introduction to Global Health.” The course will be taught this coming spring term. Trinity has also made arrangements for students to shadow pediatricians at the San Antonio Children’s Hospital with another eight-week session scheduled for February and March of next year. Nanette Le Coat, associate professor in the modern languages department, has arranged a bus trip to the Vaccine Development Labs of the Baylor College of Medicine Tropical Disease Center at the end of September as part of the International Studies Colloquium.

Trinity alumnus Mark Kline has provided access to African pediatric AIDS clinics through the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, which will accept Trinity undergraduate volunteers during the summer. If you are interested in a global health minor, please contact professors Montoya (amontoya@trinity.edu), Blystone (rblyston@trinity.edu) or Le Coat (nlecoat@trinity.edu) for more information.