CHAMNHA Climate, heat and maternal and neonatal health in Africa
Organization: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Lead Researchers: Sari Kovats
Year: 2020 - 2022
CHAMNHA is led by a transdisciplinary team from 3 continents, spanning the natural, health and social sciences, and will address key knowledge gaps around heat and Maternal and Neonatal Health (MNH) in sub-Saharan Africa.
The frequency and intensity of heat waves have increased in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and are set to escalate in the coming decades. Heatwaves present major health threats, especially for vulnerable population groups, such as those with limited socio-economic resources or compromised physiological ability to respond to heat stress. Pregnant women and neonates (<28 days after birth) have a unique set of health vulnerabilities, particularly in low- and lower-middle income countries (LLMICs), where pregnancy and childbirth are often highly precarious. Heat exposure complicates Maternal and Neonatal Health (MNH), increasing risks for maternal haemorrhage and sepsis, prematurity, low birth weight and neonatal dehydration. Few studies have assessed these impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal and neonatal deaths are frequent, facilities experience high indoor temperatures, health systems have low adaptive capacity and access to services is increasingly disrupted by climate events.
The proposed study (CHAMNHA) is led by a transdisciplinary team from 3 continents, spanning the natural, health and social sciences, and will address key knowledge gaps around heat and MNH in SSA in collaboration with stakeholders, employing qualitative and quantitative methods, implementation and evaluation science, and climate impact methods. The project is divided into three work packages (WP). WP1 will quantify impacts of heat exposure on MNH outcomes, using trial data, birth cohorts and other data sources from SSA, Norway and Sweden. We will characterize these impacts and identify sub-groups at high-risk. In WP2, qualitative research will document perceptions and local practices relating to heat exposure in pregnant women and neonates in Burkina Faso and Kenya. Then, in conjunction with pregnant women, male partners and health workers, we will co-design community- and facility-based interventions, such as improving preparedness for heat, e.g. through warning systems; changing behaviours and health worker practices to reduce heat impacts on MNH; training birth companions and traditional birth attendants on heat reduction during childbirth; and promoting breastfeeding and optimised hydration for women and neonates. WP3 will test the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of selected interventions using a randomized design (Kenya) and pre-post study design (Burkina Faso). In WP4, building on established collaborations with stakeholders, ministries of health and WHO, we will translate research findings into recommendations for improved MNH practice in the health sector, and national adaptation planning to reduce the current and future impacts of climate change on MNH