To mark this year’s World Prematurity Day, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and partners held a community engagement event at the Homabay County Referral Hospital in western Kenya. The event aimed to increase the community’s awareness of the needs of low birth weight (LBW) and premature babies, and was led by peer mothers who were the key participants in the low birth weight research study.
The Principal Investigator on this study is LSTM’s Dr Helen Nabwera (Senior Clinical Research Associate). The study was conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Centre for Global Health Research (KEMRI-CGHR through Dr Simon Kariuki), Homa County Referral Hospital and LSTM (through Professor Feiko ter Kuile).
At the start of the study, mothers who had previously had low birth weight (LBW) babies, were selected to receive training on ways to provide optimal care for these vulnerable babies. These peer mothers then worked closely with community health workers and the study team (Ms Florence Were, Mr Ondiek Ayaye, Mr Ernest Omondi and Mr Daniel Juma) to provide support to other mothers of LBW babies who had been discharged from hospital.
As the end of the study coincided with World Prematurity Day on 17th November, the team (led by Mr Daniel Juma) organized an event to mark the day and the study’s success. They invited a number of key participants to attend. The 300 attendees who joined the event included ~70 mothers of LBW babies (most of whom had participated in the study), community and facility health workers from Homabay County, the Hospital administration, the County Health Team, and the KEMRI-CGHR team led by Dr Hellen Barsosio (the study’s Co-Investigator).
This event was designed to involve these community participants in a unique way. Peer mothers were invited to share their messages and experiences with the audience through drama and poetry that were delivered in both Dholuo and Kiswahili. In their plays, which resonated very well with the audience, the peer mothers demonstrated how best to do Kangaroo Mother Care, and showed the best positions for breastfeeding and hygiene, therefore replicating the key areas in which they had been trained. They also shared their experiences of supporting mothers of LBW babies in the community. The research leadership from the Homabay County Referral Hospital and KEMRI also presented on the key things that are needed for the wellbeing of LBW babies, and outlined the challenges.
Daniel Juma, Field Supervisor on the study:
“The event was a great success and the team are very keen to have this as an annual event to raise awareness about the needs of the low birth weight babies and their mothers. The event created awareness among attendees and enabled them to learn more about the benefits of providing optimal care for these babies, especially when they are discharged back into the community. We really hope that this will help to address some of the stigma that mothers of low birth weight babies still face within the community, and that we can continue to learn together and share this important knowledge.”
Report compiled by Daniel Juma, Field supervisor on this study