Maternal Mortality: A "Fare" Issue?

It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true: a bus ride that costs mere cents could be the life or death determinant of a woman’s survival during pregnancy.

Around the world transportation is a common barrier to women being able to access timely and quality healthcare services. Transport services, especially emergency transport, are crucial for maternal health in particular because pregnancy is so inherently time sensitive. When women are unable to readily transport themselves to health facilities, their ability to monitor their health for complications and deliver with the assistance of a skilled birth attendant is severely limited.

Operating under the (frequently untrue) assumption that a pregnant woman believes she should visit a health facility in the first place, there are a several transportation-related barriers to health care access that she must overcome. Some of the biggest barriers are related to infrastructure - such as a lack of roads to connect remote areas to health centers. Another key barrier is the issue of cost; if women can’t afford both the transport fare and the cost of healthcare services while pregnant, they won’t go.

One applicant for the Young Champions of Maternal Health Program, Amy Goh, has come up with an innovative potential solution that focuses on this issue in Durban, South Africa. She has devised a two part scheme to connect rural areas around Durban with health care services in the city by:

  1. working with the government to provide tax incentives to “kombi” (minibus) drivers so that they can offer free emergency transport to pregnant women, even throughout the night when kombis typically do not run, and
  2. launching a maternal health educational campaign on the inside and outside of “kombis” to raise public awareness of the importance of skilled maternal care.

Amy is one of over 100 applicants to become a Young Champion of Maternal Health and spend nine months abroad working with – and mentored by – a leading Ashoka Fellow in the maternal health field. Check out maternal health on changemakers to read other proposals for maternal health, and stay tuned – the 15 winning Young Champions will be announced on the site on June 16th!