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Maternal mortality has reduced in Kenya

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The free Maternal Care Program has immensely contributed to the reduction of maternal mortality in Kenya with the number of deliveries now at 2,977,046.

The increased utilization of maternity services in public health facilities has contributed to the overall increase of deliveries in health facilities from 44 per cent in 2012/13 to the current 70 per cent.

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Related articlesKenyan pregnant women can access free antenatal, delivery and postnatal services in all public hospitals countrywide


The importance of prenatal checkups

Last year the Minsitry of Health introduced free antenatal, delivery and postnatal free care in all public hospital, some missionary and private hospitals countrywide in a program called, Linda Mama, Boresha Jamii.

It was in a bid to reduce mortality rates, which as of 2014, had decreased to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births from 52 in 2008-09. “We see encouraging results of improved reproductive health and reduced pregnancy-related deaths in the Kenya. A key reason for this has been the abolishment of maternity fees to eliminate financial barriers to accessing maternity services in public hospitals, political commitment, increased allocation of resources and intense immunization, said Dr. Cleopa Mailu, the Cabinet Secretary for Health.

Dr Mailu also noted that the government has introduced an insurance cover for poor people, disabled and elderly to improve access to quality care. Our intention is to achieve the Universal Health Coverage in the next five years, said the CS.

“We have a strong private sector and we are also engaging them with innovative ideas to offer support and promote the gains made. Under the Managed Equipment Services Program we are collaborating with Philips, a Netherlands company to equip 96 hospitals across all the 47 counties with medical equipment,” the CS noted.

In addition to this the Ministry of Health is developing guidelines based on the constitution to ensure access to safe abortion.

Diet change can help increase breast milk production

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download 5Breast milk is essential or newborns it supplies them with nutrients and acts as a vaccine against disease, in some cases however its production can slow down, which can be a cause of concern for mothers but there are some ways to boost it such as increasing calorie intake and change of diet.

Having a low milk supply causes many challenges to a baby, such as low birth weight and susceptibility to infections. Nutritionists recommend mothers consume at least 1,800 calories per day to maintain a full milk supply for their growing baby, at most, 2,500 to 2,700 calories.

Such a diet would include foods rich in vitamin B and includes fruits like bananas, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are known as Galactagogues, aa food, herb, or supplement that aids breast milk supply and also include kombucha tea, brewer's yeast and molasses, which help lactating mums.

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Garlic is also a galactagogue. It contains chemical compounds which help in lactation including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Studies have shown that babies nursed more often and took more milk when mothers took a garlic supplement before nursing. And, since an increase in breastfeeding can lead to an increase in the breast milk supply, this is one of the reasons why garlic is associated with making more breast milk.

Vegetables such as potatoes, spinach and beet leaves (contain iron, calcium, folic acid and detoxifying agents), carrots (contains Vitamin A which complements lactation and boosts the quality of your milk) and which help produce hormones in the female human body that help lactation among other vegetables.

Grains such as oats (are beneficial due to their high iron levels), barley, millet, brown rice, lentils and beans (black beans- commonly referred to as Njahi, kidney and soy beans) are among the recommended ones.

A bowl of whole grain oatmeal in the morning is reported to increase supply as it contains fiber and is a good source of iron, according to lactation consultants.

Diets can be complimented by nuts which are high in proteins and essential fatty acids. The amino acids in nuts are building blocks for serotonin, which is a necessary neurotransmitter for lactation.

Other foods include Salmon which is a great source of Essential Fatty acids (EFA) and Omega-3, Sweet potato which is an energy producing carbohydrate, a major source of potassium and contains Vitamin C and B-complex and a muscle relaxant mineral that is magnesium.

Another way of increasing milk production is by compressing or massaging the breasts to assist with milk flow and drainage, experts say.

According to Faith Gitahi, a lactation manager at Kenyatta National Hospital, the time breastfeeding is initiated also matters; and it is recommended that this be done within thirty minutes or within the first hour after delivery. If delayed, this could lead to low milk production.

Low breast milk production supply can be caused by stress, return of menses, medication, birth control pills and even some foods such as mint, sage, wintergreen herbs, say nutritionists.

Pregnant women should receive preventive malaria treatment to reduce the risk of death

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MalariaPregnant women who suffer from malaria have a mortality rate of 50 per cent. The disease is deadly during pregnancy and is a major cause of prenatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anemia in the country but it can be prevented by intermittent preventive treatment received during antenatal care.

“Pregnant women and unborn children are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage,” said the Global Literacy Project, (GLP) a health charity organization working in Kibera, Nairobi.

It is one of the deadliest diseases globally, killing almost half a million people every year and in Kenya it accounts for 15 per cent of all out-patient attendance in the country's health facilities admissions.

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“One of the primary causes of the spread of malaria in the country is the pre-eminence of stagnant waste water, which is caused by ineffective drainages that run through the slum. The resultant pools of water provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well as other diseases such as Cholera and Typhoid,” said GLP.

During pregnancy, a woman’s immunity is reduced which makes her vulnerable to the disease, in fact research has that the second trimester has the highest rate of infection because their immunity has significantly reduced at that period.

“Pregnant women are three times more likely to suffer from severe disease as a result of malarial infection compared with their non-pregnant counterparts, and have a mortality rate from severe disease that approaches 50 per cent. In areas endemic for malaria, it is estimated that at least 25 per cent of pregnant women are infected with malaria and the second trimester appears to bring the highest rate of infection,” read a Malaria and Pregnancy: A Global Health Perspective study, published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal.

“The current prevention of malarial disease in pregnancy relies on 2 main strategies: providing pregnant women with insecticide-treated bed nets and intermittent presumptive treatment with anti-malarial medications.”

Indeed, in Kenya women can receive intermittent preventive treatment for the disease while pregnant during their antenatal care which is free in all public hospitals country wide as of last year.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization recently announced that will conduct trials of a new malaria vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in a bid to reduce the high prevalence of the disease .The chosen theme for this year is ‘a push for prevention’.

“We are very appreciative that GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that is developing the vaccine will provide this for free of charge for this pilot. It will be assessed as the complementary intervention in Africa that can be added to our existing tool box of proven preventive diagnostic and treatment measures,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director during the announcement on Monday.

Also, private companies such as Mortein Doom, have rolled out initiatives in a bid to educate the public on the on the need to use mosquito nets, proper environmental management such as draining stagnant water, clearing of long grass and the use of indoor sprays disease so as to reduce the risk of the disease.

“We have rolled out similar initiatives every year when we celebrate World Malaria Day. We believe that we can end Malaria for good if the public takes part in the fight against this killer disease,” said Sachin Varma, the Mortein Doom Country Manager.

Eating plenty of fruits while pregnant increases a child's IQ

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BlackWoman-FruitKenyan women can increase their children’s’ IQ while they are still pregnant by eating seven severing of fruits daily as research has found that they contain nutrients that help in the function of the nervous system boosting brain function.

“We analyzed data of 688 children from Edmonton, Canada and controlled for parameters that would typically influence learning and growth. These factors include family income, parental educational attainment and the child's gestational age. The results showed that the IQ of children whose mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice daily while pregnant ranked six or seven points higher on the developmental tests,” read a 2016 research report by the University of Alberta, Canada.

Fruits such as bananas were found to be quite effective in IQ boosting because they are rich in magnesium which is an essential mineral in the transmission of nervous impulses. Bananas are also a source of Vitamin B6 which is not only involved in the assimilation of magnesium, but also in the metabolism of amino acids and the functioning of the nervous system.

Not only that; eating a large amount of fruits also associated with improving health and the reduction of lifestyle diseases.

In Kenya however, 2016, the ministry of Health in 2016 found that only 2.5m people consume the recommended amount of fruits which the ministry says has led to a great increase in lifestyle diseases.

“Thirteen per cent of Kenyans are now obese, the majority being women. They suggested that this is due to lifestyle patterns and diet, with more people eating diets high in carbohydrates and sugar, with not enough fruit and vegetables,” read the report.

In tackling this, the World Health Organization recommends eating at least five portions or 400g of fruits and non-starchy vegetables every day. They suggest always including vegetables in meals, choosing fruit and vegetables as snacks, and eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables, particularly those which are in season.

Totohealth SMS service continues to help pregnant Kenyan women track their health

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Totohealth, an SMS service platform that helps pregnant mothers track their health by sending them timely alerts thus reducing cases of maternal death, has seen tremendous growth since its inception in 2014.

As of 2016, it was able to detect up to 42 health and developmental conditions on a monthly basis thus helping minimize developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy in children. Once the conditions are detected it refers the mothers to take their children to health facilities around them.

 

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KenyaKidz conducted a follow up interview with the co-founder and CEO of the service, Felix Kimaru.

We got more information on how the service has been received in the market, how many parents it has helped and changes that they have made to the service since then.


How many more users do you have now compared to May 2014

In May 2014 we had 50 users but as of March 2016 we had 18, 121 parents using the


How many counties are you now in? Where have you seen your biggest growth?


We are now in six counties now and Nairobi remains our biggest with over 6,000 parents registered from there.

Have you increased the number of languages the service is available in? If so which ones?

Yes we have;


i. English (Text only)
ii. Kiswahili (Voice and Text)
iii. Somali (Voice and Text)

How many institutions have you partnered with and how?


We have partnered with five Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). We have increase the health outcomes of the communities they serve.

Is the Toto Health service still free?

No, it’s Ksh 200 per year or 100 per 6months.


In your two years of operation, what trends have you noticed when it comes to maternal health?


The end user is now willing to pay for a service that will save or improve their live or that of the child than to wait for an NGO to fund them to access care. The budgetary allocation from the government also increased.

You say that you also seek to minimize developmental diseases by sending out questionnaires. How many children have you been able to help so far?


We detect up to 42 health and developmental conditions on a monthly basis. Once detected, we refer the mothers to take their children to health facilities around them.

Apart from keeping track of pregnancies, can Totohealth also help expectant women find hospitals or health centres more so in the far flung areas?


We do refer parents to the public health facilities near them.


Inorder to receive the healthcare information, hospitals or medical institutions must first register with Totohealth. Parents can then be registered under a particular healthcare institution noting down the age of the child or expected day of delivery if the mother is pregnant. Weekly health updates shall then be sent to the parents via text messagein regards to the age of the child.

The health institution under which the parents are registered also sends them reminder messages on vaccinations, clinic dates and appointments. These messages may also contain warning signs on your child’s health.

All responses to the text messages sent out are recorded by Totohealth and used to create reports.

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