The Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) initiative seeks to improve maternal, newborn, and child health outcomes by strengthening health systems, using primary healthcare as an entry point. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 550 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy complications and childbirth — accounting for 66% of pregnancy and childbirth related deaths worldwide. Children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa are also 16 times more likely to die than in high-income countries due to poor access to quality healthcare services.

This seven-year, $36 million initiative — jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Global Affairs Canada, and IDRC — illustrates how partnerships serve to advance Canadian global health priorities.  

Innovative solutions to tackle difficult challenges

Nineteen Implementation Research Teams (IRTs), composed of leading African and Canadian researchers and health policymakers, are developing practical solutions to improve support for women and children directly in their communities and in the hospitals, clinics, and other facilities that serve them. In addition, the teams will study the policy environment and human resources needed for strong and equitable health systems. They will explore how innovative interventions can be implemented and scaled up to improve health equity for women and children. 

The initiative will also address some of the root causes of high maternal and child mortality, including early and forced marriage, adolescent pregnancy, and the unmet need for family planning and sexual and reproductive health services and information.

A unique model for policy uptake

The IRTs are working closely with two Health Policy and Research Organizations: one in East Africa and one in West Africa. These organizations facilitate mutual learning among researchers and policymakers and strengthen individual and institutional capacities for research. The ultimate goal of this unique model is to complement the teams’ efforts to integrate the evidence they generate into policies and practices in maternal and child health in the targeted countries.

Expected results

The program is expected to:

  • address critical knowledge gaps and increase awareness among policy decision-makers about affordable, feasible, and scalable primary healthcare interventions to improve maternal and child health delivery and outcomes;
  • promote gender-sensitive health systems and solution-oriented research, and enhance the uptake of relevant and timely research that informs policy and practice;
  • strengthen collaborations between Canadian and African researchers, working in partnership with African decision-makers, to implement and scale up high-quality and effective medicines, services, and technologies that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

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