Context: The perinatal mortality rate (PMR) in Macedonia is among the highest in Europe. The World Bank supported a consultant (HEJ) to collaborate with a Macedonian team to develop a national perinatal strategy with the goal of reducing the PMR. Education was given priority in the form of a hospital-based initiative to develop the capacity of health professionals to introduce evidence-based perinatal practice into 16 participating hospitals. A "train the teachers" approach was used, with trainees introduced to modern education and clinical practice in Sydney and subsequently supported to train their colleagues in Skopje.
Objectives: To describe the development, implementation and evaluation of the educational intervention.
Methods: A curriculum, based on specific Macedonian needs, was developed in order to integrate teaching in the knowledge, skills and attitudinal domains of learning, using small group, interactive techniques. Twenty-five Macedonian doctors and nurses participated in 4-month (phase 1a) and 6-month (phase 1b) teaching programmes at a tertiary perinatal unit in Sydney. Australian staff conducted 4 2-week modules for 36 trainees in Macedonia (phase 2). The phase 1 trainees conducted 8 modules for 57 colleagues in Skopje (phase 3). The intervention was evaluated by trainee questionnaires, assessments of competence, changes in hospital practice and pre- (1997-99) and post-intervention (2000-01) comparisons of PMR.
Results: A total of 115 doctors and nurses graduated from the programme. Positive responses to the education programme exceeded 80%. Evidence-based practice in 16 participating hospitals (covering 91% of all Macedonian births) was verified in 6 key areas of neonatology. The PMR fell significantly from 27.4 to 21.5 per 1000 births (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.73, 0.85). The early neonatal death rate in babies weighing over 1000 g fell by 36%.
Conclusions: The intervention has increased the capacity of Macedonians to practise best-evidence perinatal medicine and improve outcomes. Sustainability is predicted by the "train the teachers" approach, with concurrent strengthening of the infrastructure and organisational framework.