A study published in this week's PLoS Medicine, reveals that maternal, newborn and child health has improved in Nigeria as a result of the Midwife Service Scheme.

According to the team of Nigerian researchers from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Abuja, and the Federal Ministry of Health, the scheme encourages newly graduated, unemployed and retired midwives to work for one year in rural areas of Nigeria, in order to provide basic essential obstetric care.

The primary care facilities where the midwives are posted to are also linked to a secondary health care facility that is able to provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care.

According to the researchers, this scheme could potentially serve as a model for other low-income countries and could help to redistribute health workforce and reduce the health inequities between urban and rural areas.

The researchers explained:

"The [Midwife Service Scheme] Strategy of the Nigerian government recognizes that strategically redistributing and improving the skill set of existing cadres of health workers is achievable on a large scale."

The researchers found that after one year of the scheme, improvement in maternal, newborn, and child health indices were uneven in the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Even though there have been major challenges to continue the scheme, such as the retention, availability and training of midwives, and varying levels of commitment from state and local governments across Nigeria, there are plans to overcome these obstacles and continue to develop the scheme.

The researchers said:

"The initiative potentially serves as a model for other developing countries within and outside sub-Saharan Africa who may need to redistribute their health workforce to reduce the inequities that exist among geographical zones and between urban and rural areas."
Written By Grace Rattue