College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Improved health monitoring

Mothers and babies could benefit from improvements in tracking how medical interventions reach developing nations.

An international team of researchers, including members of the University’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, are calling for better ways of monitoring whether medicines and health programmes reach the people who need them most.

Scientists, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, say that while current methods of tracking medical interventions are essential for global maternal and child health programmes, many of these techniques could be improved.

Often this type of research relies on surveys that are carried out with the mothers of children who have been unwell, up to one month after their sickness.

Studying treatments

The University team studied the use of antibiotic treatment for pneumonia in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

They found that in many cases parents could not recall accurately which medicines their child was prescribed, and whether or not they had been diagnosed with pneumonia or simply a bad cough.

The work is part of a series of studies which have been published in a special edition of the open-access journal, PLoS Medicine.

It includes papers on the measurement of HIV transmission from mother to baby Africa, the tracking of pneumonia treatment in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the diagnosis of malaria in Zambia.

Researchers conclude that current methods of tracking medical interventions do not offer the fullest picture of where help is still required.

You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward it. It is amazing to me how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.

Bill GatesPhilanthropist

The global team now hope to work with partners in the Gates Foundation and USAID to improve these measurement techniques to ensure that medical interventions are directed effectively towards the communities where they are most needed.

To view the papers, please see:

The WHO and UNICEF recently launched a Global Action Plan to accelerate action to tackle child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea. This aims to ‘scale up’ effective interventions to reach all children, everywhere. However, a key aspect of running effective health programmes is to measure intervention coverage accurately, so that progress can be tracked and problems solved

Prof Harry CampbellCentre for Population Health Sciences