APEC’s highly coveted Walker Redman Scholarship aims to support post-doctoral students in the United Kingdom by helping to fund travel to improve their knowledge and understanding of pre-eclampsia. Here, we highlight how the award has supported the a global community engagement project that’s coordinated by Dr. Tanya Robbins, our 2019 recipient.

When applying for a scholarship, Dr. Robbins was a final year specialist trainee in Obstetrics and Gynaecology based at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. She was studying for a PhD at King’s College London funded by NIHR as part of ASSET Global Health Research Unit on Health System Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Project background

The HAPPEE Partnership Project (MRC/AHRC funded) is a community engagement project based in Haiti and Zimbabwe, working to address educational and contextual barriers to care for pre-eclampsia. The project is aiming to develop and pilot, culturally relevant and co-produced creative resources, for use alongside participatory community groups. Formative qualitative research was undertaken to understand a range of local perspectives. Interviews were conducted with pregnant women, their partners, the wider family, religious and traditional healers, traditional birth attendants and health workers. These findings have informed the development of short films using drama and narrative to engage audiences, and as a vehicle to explore sociocultural contexts affecting maternal care. Participatory groups facilitated by local women, aim to identify and prioritise relevant barriers and solutions. Creating safe forums for community dialogue including vulnerable groups, in which their needs are recognised by healthcare professionals will attempt to change behaviours and alter power dynamics. We hypothesise that improved awareness, building social capital in terms of interpersonal networks and improving trust between service users and providers will contribute to better access and quality care.

Tanya’s work within ASSET is focussed on understanding health systems bottlenecks to care for hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. This work is being undertaken in rural Ethiopia. Her project is nested within the wider work of ASSET, aiming to pilot and implement health system strengthening interventions. She is working across the care pathway from community level up to the hospital and along the pregnancy continuum.

How the Award is supporting this work

The Walker Redman award, kindly provided by APEC, will contribute towards the development of a short film for use in Ethiopia. This will build on existing, ongoing work across the HAPPEE Partnership Project and ASSET. Similar methodologies, adopting a participatory approach to engage, empower and educate women, communities and healthcare workers will be employed. The film will be screened in communities in a ‘mobile cinema’ and used as an aid to stimulate community group discussions.

More about Tanya

Dr. Tanya Robbins has worked clinically in different settings including The Gambia and India. Tanya took time out of her training programme to work for Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy International (MCAI) providing obstetric and emergency gynaecology care in an under resourced setting. As part of this work, Tanya witnessed first-hand the tragic and preventable loss of mothers and babies due to pre-eclampsia, and the devastating consequences for families and communities. Inequities in provision, access and quality of care contribute to poor outcomes across the world. She sees empowering women and communities as a key part of maternal healthcare and research, working to address “too little too late and too much too soon”.