Campaigning to Improve Maternal Health at Rural Kenyan Hospital

Campaigning to Improve Maternal Health at Rural Kenyan Hospital

Blog post updated Dec. 27, 2011.

Nursing Officer in Charge Nancy Thiong'o checks on a mother and her new baby


In 2003, after dwindling funds, low staff morale, and accusations of patient neglect had eroded community confidence in Kiriaini Mission Hospital in Kenya, the Catholic Diocese of Murang’a decided to shut it down -- leaving locals to seek treatment at the distant provincial capital of Nyeri.

Six months later five Franciscan nuns arrived from India to reopen the hospital. They hired new staff, renovated the dilapidated structures, and restored much needed services to the rural community. Eight years later the hospital is a clean, efficient, well-run facility with 70 beds, friendly staff, and multiple in-patient and out-patient services.

Nevertheless, the hospital management team noticed that the hospital’s services continued to be underutilized. They were particularly concerned that many expectant mothers were still delivering at home or choosing other facilities while bed occupancy at their well-equipped and well-staffed maternity ward remained at 38 percent.

The hospital management team enrolled in the Leadership Development Program offered by USAID through Management Sciences for Health (MSH). The program required that teams identify a current challenge and choose a measurable result toward addressing that challenge. The Kiriaini Mission Hospital team named their goal: increase the average number of monthly deliveries from 45 to 70 in six months.

To reach this goal, the team decided to address the community’s negative attitude towards the hospital. They launched an innovative public awareness campaign highlighting the health benefits for mother and child of in-hospital delivery, the hospital’s extensive maternal health services, and the newly renovated facility.

A mother holds her baby at Kenya's Kiriaini Mission Hospital.


The team also identified motivated staff with natural communication abilities and formed a “hospital publicity team.” Describing their approach, Chief Nurse Lucy Githae says, “When we go to the church, we don’t go directly and start talking about the hospital and all that, we started with educating that community on certain conditions … Then after that we may chip in and talk about other services that we offer at the hospital. So basically it was not only telling them about the hospital.”

Little by little, their strategies started to work. Hospital Administrator Bernard Muriithi said, “When we’d go on a Sunday, the next Monday you’d see someone would come and say, ‘Oh, you talked in our church yesterday and now I have come for this and this reason and also to see whether what you told us is true.’ And that by itself became a very strong … selling point for the institution.”

Within two months of completing the six month program, the management team reached their target. “In the month of April we recorded 76 deliveries; in the month of May we recorded 74,” Muriithi reported proudly. Another positive consequence of the training, he said, was that “we saw even the hospital staff appreciating the concept that we have to work as a team in the hospital.”

A mother shows off her healthy baby at Kenya's Kiriaini Mission Hospital.


Kate Steger, MA, MPH is the Communications and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for the Kenya Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program at MSH.


So nice to read. Are you also looking into infection control, quality indicators etc. regards