The health of vulnerable groups, the inequalities present in society, and the slow progress towards achieving the health- related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are concerns that need to be addressed. This is especially true for low and middle-income countries. Some countries have made advances, but these successes may remain unknown to other countries that could benefit from their experience. Higher levels of collaboration would help but can be difficult to achieve. The MASCOT project has therefore gathered 11 partners from 3 geographical areas (Europe, Latin America & Africa), an expert advisory board and additional expertise to answer a specific problem: addressing health inequalities in maternal and child health (MCH) through collaboration.
The project initially identified countries in the three regions, and went through a process of standardization and quality control. Mapping activities were carried out in each country in order to assess the current situation of MCH inequalities, to map National Research for Health Systems (NRHS), to identify institutions and research teams performing research in this area, to detect promising projects and research results as well as strategies, programs and policies implemented to tackle MCH inequalities. This resulted in the collation of information about MCH inequalities in the form of national reports, regional reports, a database, a systematic review of MCH literature in LMIC and HIC regions, and recommendations of potential strategies and co-operation opportunities for the selected countries. The database was made possible after accessing and analyzing the UNICEF MICs Survey and DHS survey. We were able to identify MCH inequalities in the 11 countries where these surveys are conducted by UNICEF and DHS administrators.
An important part of the MASCOT project was to stimulate multi-lateral collaboration and knowledge transfer as a key activity of MASCOT. All along the project, different tools such as meetings, workshops, partnering event, website, electronic newsletters and brochures were used to communicate and promote the exchange of knowledge and best practice between health stakeholders and policy-makers.
Significant differences in MCH outcomes can be exhibited between regions, countries, and continents. Health inequalities continue to be an issue that affects all societies worldwide, from west to east and from north to south. Within every country (whether rich or poor), differences in health can be observed across the population and inequalities affecting children, adolescents and mothers remain particularly evident. Health standards such as infant mortality, maternal mortality or life expectancy constitute good indicators of MCH inequalities.
The work of MASCOT was designed to achieve these objectives:
Countries selected for analysis were:
Africa: Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Tunisia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa
Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico
Country reports were produced indicating:
A database is being produced which provides a straightforward, graphical way of presenting data on MCH inequalities within and between countries.
Systematic reviews of research carried out in LMICs and HICs on MCH are being carried out for publications between 2000-2012. Strategy briefs have been produced for selected countries.
These present possible strategies to address MCH inequalities, and indicate where these strategies have been successful. These are intended as an offer for countries to investigate and analyse, and act as a potential doorway for co-operation and knowledge transfer between countries.
The actions described are intended to result in outstanding impact in different fundamental axes addressing health inequalities and to provide support to the development of country health strategies and policies. This will also constitute a significant added-value for the multilateral cooperation between Europe, Africa and Latin America as requested by the call FP7-HEALTH-2011-3.4.3 of the European Commission.
Sharing information on strategies that have tackled health inequalities specifically in the area of maternal and child health will allow receiving countries the opportunity to analyse and decide if the proposed strategies could be of benefit to their environments. If so, they could implement or adapt the recommendations to fit the specific needs.
Therefore, MASCOT has been creating and reinforcing links between Europe, Latin America and Africa, paving the way for common scientific approaches for tackling Maternal and Child Health inequalities.