March 15, 2015

Calgary-Tanzania team receives $1-million grant

Project is one of 20 chosen by federal government to raise standard of child and maternal health in African region
Dr. Jennifer Brenner's visit to Uganda with mothers from local villages.

Dr. Jennifer Brenner's visit to Uganda with mothers from local villages.

A pediatrician at the Cumming School of Medicine is making a huge difference in the lives of mothers and newborns in sub-Saharan Africa.  

And now Dr. Jenn Brenner’s efforts are being recognized and boosted by a $1-million grant from the federal government. The grant is provided by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.  The research project is one of 20 chosen by Ottawa to raise the standard of basic health in the African region for mothers and children.

Exciting new opportunity

The grant will allow Brenner and her team to expand on community-based initiatives successfully launched more than a decade ago in Uganda and adapt similar programming in neighbouring Tanzania. It will provide a package of maternal and newborn health interventions to support improved care before, during and after childbirth.

“Now, we have an exciting new opportunity to share lessons learned and experiences with Tanzanian partners,” says Brenner. “We will extend our impact through the intervention itself while strengthening global partnerships and maternal child health research expertise.”

Brenner is in the department of pediatrics in the University of Calgary’s  Cumming School of Medicine and a member of both the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and she has been the director of Healthy Child Uganda since its inception.

Global team of health professionals and researchers

The grant will be shared with counterparts in Tanzania at the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences. The Calgary team includes Drs. Nalini Singhal, Alberto Nettel-Aguirre, David Johnson, and Jennifer Hatfield.

Brenner saw case after case of preventable illness in women and babies while working in Uganda as part of a volunteer program through the Canadian Paediatric Society. In 2003, a group of Ugandans had an idea to train locals as volunteer health ambassadors to address these issues and help build healthier communities. The result was a partnership called Healthy Child Uganda. It has grown and thrived since its inception.

Strengthening community health promotion

“This grant builds on a decade of success in Uganda where we have proven that so many mothers’ and children’s lives can be saved through strategic and low-cost interventions including health worker training and establishment of volunteer community health workers in each village,” she says.

The team in Tanzania will adapt, implement, and evaluate the MamaToto model, a series of activities previously tested in Uganda as a way to improve maternal, newborn and child health in communities and at health facilities.  The phrase MamaToto means mother and child in Kishwahili.

Brenner was invited to an event  in Ottawa where the grant was announced and Prime Minister Stephen Harper  and Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates discussed Canada’s leadership role in promoting global maternal and child health.