The Ona-Mtoto-Lako (See Your Baby) Project needs your help!

Aspen Ideas Award voting closes on June 1, and can be found here!

 Dr. Kopano mabaso (south africa at large & magdalen 2010)

Dr. Kopano mabaso (south africa at large & magdalen 2010)

 Dr. Chrystelle Wedi (South Africa At Large & St. Hugh's 2012)

Dr. Chrystelle Wedi (South Africa At Large & St. Hugh's 2012)

Dr. Chrystelle Wedi (South Africa At Large & St Hugh’s 2012) and I met as house doctors at a small hospital in a disadvantaged community in South Africa in 2010. In our orientation meeting during our first day on the job, my phone kept buzzing off the hook and the switchboard was insisting that there were patients waiting for me in casualty. I raised up my hand and asked the consultant who was orienting the group of new house doctors if that was possible. Surely not – I hadn’t even signed my contract yet! Indeed, it was possible – I was on call and there were many patients waiting for me in casualty. 

Fortunately Chrystelle was post-call and already had her ‘baptism by fire’ the night before. She was kind enough to show me the ropes before heading home to recover for her shift. That was the beginning of our careers as doctors and our long friendship, in addition to a deep, shared commitment to promoting good quality health care among the most vulnerable populations on our continent. Since our first day in the hospital, we now both read for DPhils in Oxford as Rhodes Scholars, myself in Public Health and Chrystelle in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

We have always dreamed of a time where we can use the vast skillsets we are acquiring here in Oxford to solve the devastating health care challenges that many of our people face back home. Even before the completion of our DPhils, we have been presented with an exciting opportunity to improve antenatal care for African women through the Aspen Ideas Award. The Aspen Ideas Award is intended to celebrate innovative ideas that address global challenges, with a monetary award of $25,000 to launch a new initiative.  

Our idea is called the “Ona-Mtoto-Lako” (See Your Baby) Project. The project will take lifesaving antenatal care to pregnant women in remote parts of low & middle income countries, where women will be given an opportunity to come “see their baby” through ultrasonography, free of charge using a mobile ultrasonography bus. This “see your baby” visit will be used as an opportunity to tackle the leading causes of maternal & newborn deaths by identifying high risk pregnancies through ultrasonography and screening for the common causes of maternal death (i.e. pregnancy related anaemias, pregnancy related hypertension and HIV & malaria).

 An example of the type of ultrasonography that would be provided to pregnant women.

An example of the type of ultrasonography that would be provided to pregnant women.

In addition, the antenatal visit will also be used as an opportunity to obtain the mobile phone numbers of the women and these will be used to send the women maternal and child health and health promotion-related text messages as well as connect high-risk women to health care services in their area. Our project is currently ranking in the top 5 of the public vote phase of the Aspen Idea Award. If we win, we will receive a seed grant to pilot our idea in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We are only a handful of votes away from seeing this dream become a reality, and would be most grateful for your vote. Too many women die needlessly from preventable and treatable pregnancy-related conditions. Please help up contribute to solving this problem by voting for our project here – voting closes on June 1. We are grateful for your support!

Dr. Kopano Matlwa Mabaso (South Africa At Large & Magdalen 2010) is currently completing a DPhil in Population Health at the University of Oxford with a focus on health policy and strengthening health systems. She is also the founder of the Transitions Foundation in South Africa and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.