Background: Maternal, perinatal and neonatal mortality remains high in low-income countries. We evaluated community and facility-based interventions to reduce deaths in three districts of Malawi.
Methods: We evaluated a rural participatory women's group community intervention (CI) and a quality improvement intervention at health centres (FI) via a two-by-two factorial cluster randomized controlled trial. Consenting pregnant women were followed-up to 2 months after birth using key informants. Primary outcomes were maternal, perinatal and neonatal mortality. Clusters were health centre catchment areas assigned using stratified computer-generated randomization. Following exclusions, including non-birthing facilities, 61 clusters were analysed: control (17 clusters, 4912 births), FI (15, 5335), CI (15, 5080) and FI + CI (14, 5249). This trial was registered as International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial [ISRCTN18073903]. Outcomes for 14,576 and 20,576 births were recorded during baseline (June 2007-September 2008) and intervention (October 2008-December 2010) periods.
Results: For control, FI, CI and FI + CI clusters neonatal mortality rates were 34.0, 28.3, 29.9 and 27.0 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births and perinatal mortality rates were 56.2, 55.1, 48.0 and 48.4 per 1000 births, during the intervention period. Adjusting for clustering and stratification, the neonatal mortality rate was 22% lower in FI + CI than control clusters (OR = 0.78, 95% CI 0.60-1.01), and the perinatal mortality rate was 16% lower in CI clusters (OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.72-0.97). We did not observe any intervention effects on maternal mortality.
Conclusions: Despite implementation problems, a combined community and facility approach using participatory women's groups and quality improvement at health centres reduced newborn mortality in rural Malawi.
Keywords: Malawi; Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Perinatal mortality; Quality improvement; Women's groups.