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Find out about PhD student Susan Bradley's experiences at an international conference in Malwai.

Published Friday, 1st February, 2019 in Student successes

Last year SHS PhD student Susan Bradley presented her research at the Lugina Africa Midwives Research Network (LAMRN)’s second international conference in Malawi. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

"My PhD research addressed a significant global public health issue - disrespect and abuse of women during childbirth.  Growing attention from the global maternal health community has generated significant pressure on countries to take action to address disrespect, including professionalisation of the midwifery workforce.  I spent six months carrying out field work in Malawi, exploring the challenges midwives face in providing respectful maternity care (RMC).  My contribution to the research field was to move the focus away from blaming the individual midwife for disrespectful care and to use a postcolonial perspective to situate her behaviour within the broader historical, social and cultural context in which it is embedded.  My findings have relevance across sub-Saharan Africa as the history and challenges facing many health systems in the region are similar.

In 2018, the Lugina Africa Midwives Research Network (LAMRN) held its second international conference in Lilongwe, Malawi.  LAMRN is a large, pan-African network of dedicated midwifery researchers, teachers and practitioners.  This made the conference an ideal venue to share my research more widely and to increase its reach and potential impact.  I was delighted to be invited to give two presentations:

1) Engaging with the psychological and physiological impacts of evidence-based practice as a mechanism to address RMC (oral)

2) Choosing to be a midwife: recruitment, choice and role models (poster)

Both presentations focused on aspects of practice/service delivery that can be readily addressed within Malawi's existing resources - a key concern in a low-income context.

The City Graduate School awarded me a £1,000 Conference Travel Bursary, funded by the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, to attend the conference (I also secured extra funding from the City Futures Fund which allowed me to maximise the impact of being in Malawi and carry out a series of dissemination events).  Conference attendees included senior policy makers from Malawi's Ministry of Health, and midwifery regulatory bodies/organisations; my presence at the conference made my work more visible to these personnel, which encouraged them to attend the dissemination events or facilitated individual meetings.  The conference also provided an excellent networking opportunity, allowing me to strengthen existing relationships and to meet delegates from a wide range of international organisations and disciplines to learn about their areas of work.

Evidence-based practice, quality and RMC were key conference themes.  The scope of presentations ranged across clinical practice, teamwork, multi-disciplinary collaboration and health systems issues.  My oral presentation generated passionate responses from local midwifery lecturers frustrated that, despite their efforts, RMC was not being embedded in practice.  This generated a robust discussion among delegates on leadership and accountability practices.  My poster resonated strongly with some participants; a few sought me out to tell me how well it reflected their own experiences, while others wanted to discuss mechanisms to introduce more effective recruitment and allocation practices in their own contexts.

My research findings revealed a growing appetite among policymakers in Malawi to improve the quality of maternal health services.  The support of City Graduate School enabled me to use the conference to significantly increase key stakeholder interest in the possibilities for future collaboration with the university.  After the conference, I capitalised on this interest, working with Malawian colleagues to generate project ideas and draft funding proposals.  This has had a positive impact on my professional development.  I am now working as a Research Fellow in the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research, helping to expand our global maternal health research portfolio."