GE Healthcare and Amref Health Africa have announced a framework agreement that aims to develop a range of in-country healthcare service collaborations across reproductive, maternal, new-born and child health, non-communicable diseases, water, sanitation and hygiene and safe surgery.

Initially, Amref Health Africa and GE will work together with IntraHealth and Project HOPE on a new programme in Ethiopia, where GE will provide medical equipment at 20 health centres and four primary hospitals to widen access to antenatal screenings, essential new-born care and to up-skill health workers.

The technology will include portable ultrasound for antenatal screening, baby warmers, anaesthesia and resuscitation equipment used during childbirth and phototherapy devices which help mitigate jaundice in babies.

Through a focus on task-shifting, health workers such as midwives will be taught essential skills to perform additional tasks such as antenatal scans, ensuring that critical and potentially life-saving services are available to the most at-risk patients.

“Amref Health Africa stands at the forefront of creating stronger community-based health systems that ensure access to quality health services for all. Training health workers on essential skills for mother and child health is a key component of addressing the high rates of maternal, new-born and child mortality that still exists in far too many communities,” said Amref Health Africa Group CEO, Dr Githinji Gitahi.

The new GE programme with Amref Health Africa builds on results from a six-month GE pilot during which 22 NICU nurses and paediatricians were trained on the provision of essential new-born care. It showed a 24% reduction in facility-based neo-natal mortality, from 82 in every 1,000 admissions to 62 in every 1,000 admissions.

The study was conducted by the Ethiopian Paediatric Association in consultation with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health at four sites across Ethiopia, and involved more than 2,400 newborns. The study also showed a 50% reduction in patient referrals and a one-day reduction in overall hospital length of stay after an NICU intervention to seven days.

“Strengthening primary care and the broader referral system is an essential building block towards the attainment of universal health coverage in Africa,” said President and CEO of GE Healthcare Africa, Farid Fezoua. “To that end, Amref Health Africa – as a proven and trusted partner in African healthcare, has been at the forefront of primary care development. Leveraging their unique insights and local know-how is an important step in GE’s plan to contribute meaningfully to the reduction of preventable maternal and child mortality.”

“Our approach combines relevant technologies, skills development and localised service delivery into one scalable deployment model. Early pilots have shown promising results and together with Amref Health Africa and our other implementation partners, we have a dedicated local team monitoring and evaluating these programmes to share learnings across the continent,” concluded Fezoua.

GE Healthcare says it has more than a dozen programmes in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Sierra Leone aimed at reducing preventable maternal and infant mortality underway together with a range of implementation partners.

Furthermore, the organisation plans to deliver more than 20 similar initiatives with several partners and aims to reach 3.5 million expectant women, mothers and new-borns and train over 3,000 primary healthcare workers by 2020.

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