Team from Gillings School chosen to evaluate maternal and newborn intervention in Ethiopia

September 2, 2015

Four faculty members from the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health have been awarded funding to evaluate a project using a quality improvement approach to advance maternal and newborn health outcomes in Ethiopia.


Dr. Kavita Singh Ongechi

Dr. Ilene Speizer

Dr. Ilene Speizer

Kavita Singh Ongechi, PhD, research assistant professor of maternal and child health, is the primary investigator. Ilene Speizer, PhD, research professor in the same department, will act as co-investigator along with Clare Barrington, PhD, assistant professor of health behavior, and Bruce Fried, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management.

The UNC faculty members will work in close collaboration with the implementing project team, which is a partnership between the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health. This marks the second collaboration for IHI and UNC as they are already working together on Project Fives Alive! in Ghana.

In Ethiopia, both the project implementation and evaluation have been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a two-and-a-half-year period. The total evaluation funding is $500,000.

The implementing team will use continuous learning approaches to enable health facilities to deliver clinical care bundles aimed at reducing the main causes of maternal and newborn mortality in-country. Implementation will start with a pilot phase in a small number of facilities and then expand to a test-of-scale phase.

The evaluation team will use a mixed methods approach, including impact analysis, cost analysis and qualitative assessments, to understand if and how the intervention is leading to improved process and outcome indicators during each phase of implementation.

The UNC team is excited to lead the evaluation. “This project will engage health facility staff and communities to look at barriers to maternal and newborn health, and take actions to address those barriers,” Singh said. “This approach draws upon local expertise and experiences and thus has the potential to be sustainable. We will have the opportunity to work closely with the implementing team to share findings in an ongoing manner so they may use findings to modify program implementation as needed.”

“These types of approaches where models are tested, adapted and scaled using available evidence are excellent examples of implementation science in practice,” added Speizer. “They lead to replicable and sustainable models for improved health in high-need settings such as Ethiopia.”

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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