Reflections of Lydia - Part 1
Author: Ademuwagun, Lydia
Today was the first official day of data collection in Tamale. In preparation for today’s activities, we visited the Ghana Health Service Office, Tamale Central Hospital, and an NGO called the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada – Ghana yesterday. We introduced ourselves to the leaders of these locations and learned about their work. Prince selected the people we would be interviewing by inquiring about how long and in what capacity the various employees at each of the sites had been working in the Northern Region’s health sector. She seemed to be most interested in recruiting people who were relatively familiar with the inner workings of the Northern Region and had been working in the area for an extended period of time. My colleagues and I spent most of the morning at the Tamale Central Hospital, where we interviewed 4 of the individuals that we had spoken to the day before.
The woman that I interviewed was a midwife in the labor and delivery ward who had more than 30 years of experience working with mothers and their babies in and around Tamale. During the interview, she shared her thoughts on the major reasons for the decline in neonatal mortality in the Northern Region, neonatal health-related interventions that have been implemented, and the steps that should be taken in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for neonatal mortality in the Northern Region. Drawing from what the interview participant described, it appears that many of the neonatal health issues in Tamale are rooted in the delayed arrival of mothers in labor to a health facility; a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health workers; insufficient equipment availability and inadequate funding resources; and the challenge of creating a bridge between deeply rooted beliefs and safe delivery and post-partum practices.
The intersection of cultural norms and traditions with labor, delivery, and newborn care practices was a theme that echoed throughout my conversation with the midwife. I learned that the success that health education programs achieved in informing pregnant women about safe delivery practices, cord care, and breastfeeding occurred due to the intentionality with which health workers identified and addressed common harmful newborn care practices among various communities in the Northern Region. The participant mentioned, for example, that there had been a commonly held belief that colostrum was dirty milk and should therefore be thrown away. After education programs were implemented in both health facilities and among various communities in the Northern Region, however, this practice declined as pregnant women and their families became more aware of the role that colostrum plays in boosting the immunity of newborns and protecting them from infection. I am interested in further exploring how this focus on cultural awareness and sensitivity has influenced neonatal health-related interventions, trainings for health workers, and government policies in subsequent interviews.