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Leading Kingston University and St George's, University of London midwifery expert called upon to help transform quality of care in Bangladesh

Posted Friday 20 December 2019

Leading Kingston University and St George's, University of London midwifery expert called upon to help transform quality of care in Bangladesh Dr Lesley Kay (back row, centre) with student midwives at Chittagong Nursing College and Clinical Mentor at Save the Children Dr Geena Kalam (front row, centre).

A leading midwifery expert from Kingston University and St George's, University of London has been called upon to support a Royal College of Midwives Twinning Project with the Bangladesh Midwifery Society to help develop the profession in the country.

Dr Lesley Kay was chosen from a number of applicants to head to the South Asian country to work on the programme as a midwifery educator. Her role in the project includes supporting the Bangladesh Midwifery Society to create demand for midwifery services and advocate for the profession which is in its infancy in Bangladesh, with the first midwives not qualifying until 2016.

As part of the project, Dr Kay has so far paid two visits to Bangladesh and met with students, midwives, educators and various stakeholders from organisations such as Save the Children and the United Nations Population Fund. As part of her role she is tasked with helping to raise the profile and prominence of the profession within the country, particularly among high level government officials, with a view to improving education for current and aspiring midwives.

Originally midwives were only being deployed to the rural areas but on her second visit Dr Kay found that a handful of midwives had been placed in urban areas in the capital city of Dhaka by the United Nations Population Fund and Save the Children. "Since the mentorship programme began on two sites in Dhaka, a three per cent drop in caesarean section births has been observed and there has been an increase in the number of alternative birthing positions being used – it's an amazing transformation and hopefully the momentum will continue." She said.Dr Lesley Kay (centre) with Bangladesh midwifery students Khadiza Aktep (left) and Runiza Khatun (right).Dr Lesley Kay (centre) with Bangladesh midwifery students Khadiza Aktep (left) and Runiza Khatun (right).

"Everyone is pulling in the same direction to make a difference to the lives of mothers and babies and improve working conditions for midwives in the country. There is limited gender equality and a high percentage of births where there is no skilled birth attendant present, but we want to change this by providing a suitable and culturally-relevant education that can give midwives a voice," she added.

Global Professional Advisor for the Royal College of Midwives Joy Kemp praised Dr Kay for her work and is excited by the potential that can be unlocked in Bangladesh. "It's been amazing to have someone of Lesley's calibre participating in our project. She formed a close bond with Asma Khatun, the new education secretary to the Bangladesh Midwifery Society, and has developed excellent working relationships with all the partners involved in the project. She has already raised the profile of the profession in the country and her cultural sensitivity has helped her advocate for high quality midwifery education, which has been a huge encouragement to our Bangladeshi colleagues," she said.

One of the ways Dr Kay is looking at improving the education of the midwives is developing the e-learning platform currently used for continuing professional development. "I spoke to midwives, students and teachers and found that many of the modules offered are not as culturally sensitive or user-friendly as they could be. I am looking to change this and am also looking at streamlining the online registration process," she said.

Project Manager of the Bangladesh Midwifery Society Ms Sharmin Shobnom Joya said the association had already learned a lot from Dr Kay during her visits. "She navigated the cultural norms and traditions of our country tactfully and with ease. She was open to the feedback we gave her and has contributed some really constructive and sound advice to help develop the profession. We're really excited to continue our working relationship with her," she said.

As well as sharing her knowledge and expertise with the South Asian country, Dr Kay believes she also has learned things she can bring back to share with her students at Kingston. "Our student midwives do an international and political and social module and I can now use my experience to compare how maternity care is organised and delivered in Bangladesh, along with the social and political aspects of midwifery in this country – it will really enrich the learning of our students" she said.

Dr Kay is hoping to visit Bangladesh again in 2020 to continue the development of midwifery training, and she has invited Ms Joya to Kingston University to meet students and find out about practices in the UK.

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