In 2010, a program was put in place by Imaging the World in collaboration with Philips to provide access to basic antenatal ultrasound at Nawanyago Health Centre III in Uganda. Under this program, midwives were trained in the Imaging the World ultrasound screening protocol and the resulting increase in antenatal care visits actually allowed for opportunities for maternal education regarding safe birthing and home care practices. Since program inception, researchers report detection of previously undiagnosed complications such as placenta previa, breech presentation, multiples, molar pregnancy and low fluid levels. All patients requiring hospital care were referred to district and regional hospitals.
In addition, to improve participation in ultrasound screenings, researchers observed positive clinical trends in other aspects of care including antenatal visits and newborn deliveries. The study published in PLOS described the “magnet effect” associated with the introduction of antenatal ultrasound in an undeveloped region such as Uganda.
An additional observation of the study found that husbands were interested in watching the ultrasound scan of their child and attending antenatal visits. This becomes increasingly important considering men are the family health care decision makers in Uganda.
This “magnet effect” of ultrasound has not been previously described, but has significant implications as the Philips/ Imaging the World ultrasound program is designed to be self-sustaining and scalable. Already, new sites have been opened up in Uganda and plans are underway to expand to additional locations in sub-Saharan Africa. Besides monitoring pregnancy, ultrasound has many other clinical applications that can improve overall general patient care. Although the early results of the program are exciting, there may be even greater benefits as the program evolves over time.
“The mission of Imaging the World is to make affordable, high quality ultrasound available in the most rural facilities around the world,” said Dr. Kristen DeStigter, vice-chair of the Department of Radiology at Fletcher Allen and co-founder of Imaging the World. “When women come to the clinic for routine antenatal care, they can be tested and treated for a variety of other conditions such as anemia, malaria, syphilis, worms or HIV, all of which will make their pregnancy safer. We are pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of the “magnet effect” of ultrasound at the point of care and are excited by the results. The technology actually became the catalyst for a system of integrated care that involves partnership, education on multiple levels, community outreach, quality assurance and collaboration. I think this technology-based system solution has the potential to make a huge impact on people's lives."
Through local and international partnerships, Philips also works to provide financing solutions, technical assistance and support to strengthen health systems, and a training framework to increase the output of trained and skilled health care professionals in all regions including African countries.