UCLan childbirth research team receives Bill and Melinda Gates research award

6 January 2021

Research academics at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are celebrating today having received a prestigious grant worth $80,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Professor Soo Downe

UCLan’s Research in Childbirth and Health group (ReaCH) led by Soo Downe, Professor of Midwifery Studies, was one of only five teams worldwide be awarded the funding under one the Foundation’s ‘Grand Challenges’ research themes related to appropriate use of cesarean section in low and middle-income settings.

The UCLan team and its research partners will develop a multi-media programme for lawyers and judges based in India who work on medical litigation related to childbirth. The aim is to help ensure they understand the evidence on risks and benefits of the procedure as well as respecting the legal rights of service users.

Commenting on the research initiative Professor Downe said: “In some hospitals in India, as in other low and middle-income countries around the world, cesarean section rates are as high as 80%. Our previous studies have shown that this is partly associated with a fear of litigation.

“Alongside our research partners we will develop an educational package for judges and lawyers that will go some way to ensuring that any cesarean section that is undertaken is based on clinical need, human rights, and medical evidence.

“The World Health Organisation, the Lancet medical journal, and many international and national medical and midwifery organisations around the world have said that both underuse and overuse of medical interventions should be addressed. Overuse drives up costs in health care systems, meaning that there is less funding for those that really need interventions to have them. It also affects quality of care, including respect for women’s’ dignity and choice, and worse clinical outcomes for mother and baby in the short and longer term.”

The Re-JUDGE study will be developed by the UCLan team and its research partners in India at the University of Hyderabad and the Fernandez Foundation. Additional input will be made by the World Health Organisation and extended research team members based in Canada and Brazil.

Once completed the multi-media programme will be issued to judges and lawyers in four Indian states to evaluate feasibility and usability and its effect on legal decision making.

Professor Downe added: “In the long-term the impact of this work could be far reaching.  We hope it will address challenges related to safe, timely and appropriate cesarean section in low and middle-income countries around the world”

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