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Basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC) is a primary health care level initiative promoted in low- and middle-income countries to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Tailored support, including BEmONC training to providers, mentoring and monitoring through supportive supervision, provision of equipment and supplies, strengthening referral linkages, and improving infection-prevention practice, was provided in a package of interventions to 134 health centers, covering 91 rural districts of Ethiopia to ensure timely BEmONC care. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in measuring program implementation strength to evaluate public health gains. To assess the effectiveness of the BEmONC initiative, this study measures its implementation strength and examines the effect of its variability across intervention health centers on the rate of facility deliveries and the met need for BEmONC.
Before and after data from 134 intervention health centers were collected in April 2013 and July 2015. A BEmONC implementation strength index was constructed from seven input and five process indicators measured through observation, record review, and provider interview; while facility delivery rate and the met need for expected obstetric complications were measured from service statistics and patient records. We estimated the dose–response relationships between outcome and explanatory variables of interest using regression methods.
The BEmONC implementation strength index score, which ranged between zero and 10, increased statistically significantly from 4.3 at baseline to 6.7 at follow-up (p < .05). Correspondingly, the health center delivery rate significantly increased from 24% to 56% (p < .05). There was a dose–response relationship between the explanatory and outcome variables. For every unit increase in BEmONC implementation strength score there was a corresponding average of 4.5 percentage points (95% confidence interval: 2.1–6.9) increase in facility-based deliveries; while a higher score for BEmONC implementation strength of a health facility at follow-up was associated with a higher met need.
The BEmONC initiative was effective in improving institutional deliveries and may have also improved the met need for BEmONC services. The BEmONC implementation strength index can be potentially used to monitor the implementation of BEmONC interventions.