Bournemouth University’s latest project in Nepal

Professor Edwin van Teijlingen talking to some of the healthcare workers in Nepal

Professor Edwin van Teijlingen talking to some of the healthcare workers in Nepal - Credit: Archant

Professor Edwin van Teijlingen talks about Bournemouth University’s latest project in Nepal, training healthcare workers to identify and support mental health issues in pregnant women

Bournemouth University (BU) has been working in Nepal for many years, particularly in the area of health care research which is something I have pioneered. My current project stems from years of working with colleagues in Nepal to improve the health care of pregnant women in rural areas. It’s a collaborative project between BU, Tribhuvan University (Nepal’s oldest and largest university) and Liverpool John Moores University. Our work is supported by THET (Tropical Health & Education Trust) who train healthcare workers, enabling people in low and middle income countries to access essential healthcare.

Our long term goal is to produce a curriculum for training healthcare workers to identify and provide support for mental health issues during pregnancy and childbirth. Because there are no doctors in rural villages, healthcare workers can play a crucial role in helping mothers and young babies if they know what signs to look for.

As part of this project we are bringing highly experienced UK volunteers to Nepal to train around 100 maternity care practitioners about the key mental health issues in pregnancy and after birth. On the ground we also have the support of the Nepalese charity, Green Tara Nepal. They provide us with practical support by helping our UK volunteers with the transition to living in Nepal, providing translators, designing some of the curriculum and helping to recruit local health workers. That local support is vital as it provides us with intelligence and knowledge that makes a real difference to the ultimate success of our work.

Our UK volunteers also play a really important role in the project. We have 15 experienced UK healthcare workers – including midwives, GPs, mental health nurses, health visitors and psychiatrists – giving us two or three weeks of their time to work in Nepal. The use of volunteers is essential as Nepal is a poor country and we are very grateful for their time and support.

The training provided by our volunteers focuses on building a healthcare worker’s skills, so that they are able to recognise mental health issues in pregnant women and new mothers. Initial training takes place over five days and covers theory-based classroom sessions and monitoring out in field where staff from Green Tara Nepal visit our Nepalese health care workers. They check to see whether the new ideas we teach are being implemented and whether they have led to a change in attitudes. They continue to coach and mentor after the formal training has been completed.

We see this monitoring and evaluation process as particularly important as it enables us to measure our success and make changes to the programme to ensure its acceptance and adoption at a local level before we present the curriculum to the Nepalese authorities at the end of the project.

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About Professor Edwin van Teijlingen

Professor van Teijlingen is a medical sociologist based at the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Health at Bournemouth University, which aims to promote the health and wellbeing of women, babies and their families by enhancing practice through education, research and scholarship. His main academic work has been in the field of public health and the organisation of maternity care, including overseas in Nepal where he is involved in the evaluation of a community-based project to improve the uptake of antenatal care.

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