Strategies developed and implemented by women's groups to improve mother and infant health and reduce mortality in rural Malawi

Int Health. 2012 Sep;4(3):176-84. doi: 10.1016/j.inhe.2012.03.007.


We evaluated the strategies to tackle maternal and infant health problems developed by women's groups in rural Malawi. Quantitative data were analyzed on strategies developed by 184 groups at two of the meetings in the community action cycle (attended by 3365 and 3047 women). Data on strategies implemented was collected through a survey of the 197 groups active in January 2010. Qualitative data on the identification and implementation of strategies was collected through 17 focus group discussions and 12 interviews with men and women. To address the maternal and child health problems identified the five most common strategies identified were: health education sessions, bicycle ambulances, training of traditional birth attendants, wetland vegetable garden (dimba garden) cultivation and distribution of insecticide treated bednets (ITNs). The five most common strategies actually implemented were: dimba garden cultivation, health education sessions, ITN distribution, health programme radio listening clubs and clearing house surroundings. The rationale behind the strategies and the factors facilitating and hindering implementation are presented. The potential impact of the strategies on health is discussed. Women's groups help communities to take control of their health issues and have the potential to reduce neonatal, infant and maternal mortality and morbidity in the longer term.