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International Medical Corps Launches Continuing Medical Education Program to Combat Maternal and Infant Mortality in Haiti

In keeping with its mission to promote self-reliance through training, International Medical Corps launched a Continuing Medical Education (CME) program in Haiti in September 2010.  In partnership with the Haitian Medical Association and the Haitian Society of Gynecologists, the inaugural CME program in the country focused on emergency obstetrics and included gynecologists, obstetricians, midwives, and public and private health professionals in Haiti to share the latest obstetric care techniques and to refresh and update their skills.

“It is time that something is done to reduce high maternal and infant mortality in Haiti,” said gynecologist Dr. Martin Olsen, who pointed to statistics from the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP) and World Health Organization showing enormous risk factors associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Even prior to the massive 2010 earthquake, Haiti struggled with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Americas, with some 670 deaths for every 100,000 live births. And while infant and under five mortality rates have steadily declined over the past ten years, the rates at which newborns and young children die, often due to preventable causes such as malaria, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections, are still among the highest in the region.

Over the course of three days, leading experts in emergency obstetrics from the world’s most prestigious organizations and universities led workshops on key emergency obstetric topics such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, breach pregnancy, and shoulder distortion.

“These factors are extremely important. It’s quite amazing to review basic concepts from time to time because science is ever-evolving,” said Dr. Katia Pétion, a general practitioner working in Haiti.

The CME workshops focused on practical, work-based scenarios using video projections, mannequins, and delivery room tools, such as forceps to make the lectures as useful and applicable as possible.  The instructors also stressed the need to work in teams and encouraged the use of new technical approaches that aim to minimize caesarian sections.

“These three days were a great opportunity for physicians to both share and strengthen their skills,” said Dr. Jojo Cangao, medical director International Medical Corps in Haiti.  “We hope that it sparked a collective commitment among the participants to meet the challenges of obstetric emergencies and reduce maternal and neonatal mortalities in Haiti.”

International Medical Corps is currently planning a second CME session on obstetrics in collaboration with the MSPP and the Director General’s Office for Haitian Recovery – and is proposing four additional CME programs in the coming year.