McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Mac MD’s work sparks Ugandan initiatives for mothers

Published: July 31, 2007
Brian Coombes
Jean Chamberlain, obstetrician/gynecologist and assistant professor of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

McMaster assistant professor Jean Chamberlain has played a key role in the Ugandan government’s recent initiatives to reduce the high number of mothers who die in childbirth in the African nation.

Both her Save the Mothers Foundation and the Master of Health Leadership program she directs in Uganda were key to the government passing a resolution to assess how to deal with the problem and make registration of maternal deaths compulsory. For the first time, the Ugandan government has included in its recently passed budget funds specifically for efforts to mitigate maternal mortality. This includes money to provide emergency obstetrical care at local health centres, and to revitalize family planning in an effort to limit unsafe abortions. About 6,000 women die annually in Uganda of pregnancy-related causes.

Chamberlain’s role in Uganda’s establishment of measures to deal with maternal mortality is detailed in an article in this week’s edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Chamberlain is an obstetrician/gynecologist and assistant professor of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She founded Save the Mothers in 2005, a group that works to reduce the number of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. She spends eight months of the year living and working in Uganda.

Through the foundation, Chamberlain also launched a Master of Public Health Leadership program, which aims to educate and mobilize influential, non-medical people in the struggle to improve public health in Uganda.

The program’s first 25 students will graduate this fall. One of the students, Sylvia Ssinabulya, is a Member of Parliament in Uganda, who introduced the resolution to make safe motherhood a priority.

Uganda has the world's third fastest growing population, with a fertility rate of 6.9 children per woman. Only 18.5 per cent use modern contraception methods, and only 38 per cent of women deliver in hospital or with skilled attendants. Abortion is illegal, and many unsafe and unregulated procedures end in death.

Ssinabulya says that the obstetrician/gynecologists "have done a lot despite limited resources," but the maternal mortality remains "a nightmare."

As the executive director of Save the Mothers (an affiliate of Interserve Canada, a Christian non-profit organization) Chamberlain is noted internationally for her work to reduce maternal mortality and improve childbirth in developing nations. She hopes to expand the master’s program into Kenya, Tanzania and perhaps Afghanistan.

"When you work by yourself, when you're a lone ranger, you quickly lose your enthusiasm," she says. "What we want to do is encourage the Sylvias, people who are in very influential positions, to form a network of advocates for maternal health."

For the complete article in CMAJ, click here:

CMAJ article

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