A mobile cesarean birth center as a solution to improve access to surgical birth in rural Ethiopia: a mixed methods research protocol

Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2021 Dec 15;7(1):218. doi: 10.1186/s40814-021-00955-4.


Background: As an evidence-based intervention to prevent maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, cesarean birth at rates of under 2%, which is the case in rural Southwest Ethiopia, is an unacceptable public health problem and represents an important disparity in the use of this life-saving treatment compared to more developed regions. The objective of this study is to explore an innovative clinical solution (a mobile cesarean birth center) to low cesarean birth rates resulting from the Three Delays to emergency obstetric care in isolated and underserved regions of Ethiopia, and the world.

Methods: We will use mixed but primarily qualitative methods to explore and prepare the mobile cesarean birth center for subsequent implementation in communities in Bench Sheko and West Omo Zones. This will involve interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders and retreat settings for user-centered design activities. We will present stakeholders with a prototype surgical truck that will help them conceive of the cesarean birth center concept and discuss implementation issues related to staffing, supplies, referral patterns, pre- and post-operative care, and relationship to locations for vaginal birth.

Discussion: Completion of our study aims will allow us to describe participants' perceptions about barriers and facilitators to cesarean birth and their attitudes regarding the appropriateness, acceptability, and feasibility of a mobile cesarean birth center as a solution. It will also result in a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART) implementation blueprint(s), with implementation strategies defined, as well as recruitment plans identified. This will include the development of a logic model and process map, a timeline for implementation with strategies selected that will guide implementation, and additional adaptation/adjustment of the mobile center to ensure fit for the communities of interest.

Trial registration: There is no healthcare intervention on human participants occurring as part of this research, so the study has not been registered.

Keywords: Cesarean birth; EPIS framework; Ethiopia; Mixed methods; Mobile surgical center; Qualitative methods.