culture + environment creating health + wellbeing engaged research

Group of people holding a discussion under trees

RIA: Building for maternal health

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Planting a seed during a drought – working for maternal health in Orus, Kenya

The Research Initiation Award was used to develop a collaboration between STEMA Health System Innovation, MAMA Kenya (Maternal Aid for Mothers in Africa, a local NGO based in Eldoret, Kenya), Global Health Disrupted and the village of Orus in Kenya. We are collectively interested in looking at how built environment maternal health interventions can be embedded in a health ecosystem and how a multi-disciplinary team could work with communities to generate ideas on how best to develop a maternal health space.

Diagrams drawn in sandy soil

Participatory mapping literally ‘on the ground’

We held participatory workshops with the community of Orus in Western Kenya to understand their barriers to and resources for health, looking at how we could collectively form ideas for a community space for maternal health by learning about vernacular building techniques, local agricultural knowledge and maternal health expertise and the community health system. Working with the village elders, women, men and community health workers, we hoped to co-create ideas about how a community can develop its own resourcefulness for health and integrate health and environmental care by looking at co-designing a community health space and agricultural intervention.

Group of women meeting together - Orus, Kenya

Women’s group meeting – sharing journeys and birth stories

The award allowed us to bring together this partnership of global health researchers, medical doctors, architects, inclusive designers, community health workers and the community of Orus to look at creative ways to develop the most appropriate and ‘resourceful’ ideas for health, and specifically maternal health. In particular, the award gave us the resources to support and bring together the community as part of the research, which is fundamental to our work.

We identified a system of challenges to maternal health in the community, which encompass social, political and environmental barriers to good health. The climate and the support the community were identified as key challenges, a participatory and systems thinking approach going forward will be essential.

Our fieldwork is ongoing and the MAMA team has begun the first phase of interventions through initiating training for the local traditional birth attendants. We are writing up our fieldwork and recently exhibited the fieldwork in the ‘Design Research for Change Showcase’ at the London Design Fair.

Project leader:

Mikaela Patrick, Research Associate at STEMA


Global Health Disrupted
The Orus Community

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