The University of British Columbia has announced $17 million in continued support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand a project aimed at reducing the instance of pre-eclampsia in eleven developing countries.
The second leading cause of maternal death, pre-eclampsia — an often fatal onset of high blood pressure during pregnancy — kills 76,000 women a year, nearly all of them in the developing world. While the disease is treatable in a hospital, most affected women are not properly diagnosed or transported to an appropriate facility for treatment.
Building on an earlier $7.4 million grant from Gates, the new funding will be used to find and treat women at risk of succumbing to the disease in Nigeria, Mozambique, Pakistan, and India. The project, which will involve some 130,000 expectant mothers, uses a simple method for diagnosing pre-eclampsia developed by UBC professor of obstetrics and gynecology Peter von Dadelszen, a clinician-scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute who is leading the effort. Study sites will use smartphone technology developed by UBC/CFRI researchers Mark Ansermino and Guy Dumont that calculates a risk score based on a woman's symptoms and a physical examination and helps trained community health workers to diagnose the condition, administer medication, and arrange urgent transport when needed.
"Pre-eclampsia should be as survivable in Nigeria as it is in Canada, but the difference in outcomes is stark," said Dr. von Dadelszen. "Too many women enter hospitals in Asia and Africa already too sick to save, or having suffered strokes, or having lost their baby. We want to see if we can remedy this inequity through a combination of training, community education, and a dose of technology."