Study of women's experiences with maternal health care underwayWritten by Amira Elghawaby
A local public health researcher wants to hear from minority women, including Muslims, who have used maternal care services at the Ottawa Hospital.
With colleagues from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Sylvia Reitmanova has begun a survey titled “Diversity-inclusive maternal healthcare services” which aims to capture the experiences of women who have had any experiences with the Ottawa Hospital during pregnancy and birth. This includes General, Civic and Riverside campuses.
The study aims to assess the current policies and practices of the maternal healthcare services for diversity inclusiveness.
“In Canada, a number of studies have suggested that women from minority populations experience many inequities and unmet needs in the area of maternal health,” says Dr. Reitmanova, the principal investigator on the project. “For instance, some groups of visible minority immigrant women and Aboriginal women are disadvantaged by the lack of services responsive to their cultural health beliefs, values and practices, linguistic needs and also to their experiences of poverty and racism.”
Studies have shown that there are direct health benefits when pregnant women feel welcome and understood by their health care providers, Dr. Reitmanova says.
“Providing diversity-inclusive maternal healthcare is essential for ensuring optimal health outcomes for mothers (and their offspring) from minority populations. There is ample support in the literature for the benefits of developing such inclusiveness in healthcare institutions. Several studies showed that the lack of competent services which would address effectively women's needs can add to stress-induced hormonal and immune responses making women more vulnerable to pre-term labour, low birth weight, and perinatal mortality and morbidity including gestational diabetes and post-partum depression. The negative experiences with the provision of appropriate healthcare services may be also destructive to women's decisions to utilize services in the future.”
In a brief to the Muslim Link, Dr. Reitmanova notes that some Ottawa healthcare institutions have already put in place (or intend to develop) a set of policies and practices which can enable health professionals to be effective in delivering care in cross-cultural situations.
However, the understanding of diversity in these policies and practices is often limited to differences in ethnic background, religion and language. The information about the state of diversity-inclusiveness of Ottawa maternal healthcare institutions is very limited.
“The lack of information is worrisome at best,” says Dr. Reitmanova, “considering the great diversity of women in Ottawa and the fact that 43 per cent of Ottawa's women are in the reproductive age between 15 and 45. According to Census 2006, out of 812,129 Ottawa's residents, 52 per cent were women, with about 20 per cent identifying themselves as visible minorities.”
The anonymous survey will be available in the waiting areas of maternal healthcare clinics in the Ottawa Hospital until February 2013.
In addition, the surveys are also available at selected organizations and centres that serve minority women. They can be also accessed online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5NCW8TL(English) and https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LY852M6(French).
Dr. Reitmanova adds that her team is also looking for women who would like to consider a possibility of being individually interviewed about their maternal healthcare experiences and needs. After the completion of this study, there are plans to host a workshop for interested maternal healthcare policymakers and service providers at the Ottawa Hospital to discuss results, and implications for change in policy and practice. Research participants will be invited to attend as well.
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