December 2011 Newsletter

Suellen with village midwives in Bangladesh
Dear Friends,


I hope this letter finds you well and preparing for the 2011 holiday season. I wish to extend the warmest of holiday greetings as well as our thanks for your generous support of the Safe Motherhood Program at UCSF. With your support we have taken great steps in our mission to eradicate pregnancy-related death and disability globally. Your contributions have helped us to continue conducting ground breaking research, training providers in developing countries, educating future leaders in the U.S., and disseminating the tools and information needed to save the lives of countless women in developing countries.

I am delighted to provide this brief summary of our ongoing efforts.

As most of you know, the centerpiece of our Safe Motherhood Program is the NASG Project, which brings the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG), a first aid device, to thousands of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Health care workers at all levels of the public health system, where the poorest and most vulnerable women are cared for, can quickly and easily use the NASG to assist women suffering from obstetric hemorrhage. In places where childbirth is a matter of life and death, this life-saving device is absolutely critical to women’s well being.

Molly, a nurse-midwife, and “sister-in-charge” of a labor ward in Northern Zambia told us:“We are all addicted to the NASG, without these garments so many women would be dying in childbirth. We feel that now we have something that we can use with our own hands to save these mothers.”

At all of our sites, we study the efficacy of the NASG on women with obstetric hemorrhage. A recent article about our work was published in the New York Times, Health section on September 26, 2011 entitled “Like a Wetsuit But it Can Save a Hemorrhaging Mother“. In our studies in Nigeria and Egypt we demonstrated the use of the NASG with 1,442 women with severe hemorrhage, and showed an impressive 56% decrease in maternal deaths for those women who received the NASG.

In Zambia and Zimbabwe, we are conducting a large-scale randomized clinical trial, and are at the phase of introducing the NASG at the primary health care level, to determine if placing the NASG on women before they are transported to a Referral Hospital (RH) decreases maternal mortality and morbidity. We expect to conclude this study in 2013, and to have the data necessary to convince the World Health Organization to add the NASG to their list of essential devices.

Dissemination of our research findings to our colleagues in public health, obstetrics, and gynecology at the international and global level is another important element of our program. The publications page on our website is filled with our library of scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals.


In March, we were able to host Christy Turlington Burns for the California premiere of her new documentary on maternal health: “No Woman, No Cry“. We had a sold out crowd for this moving examination of how four women in four different countries face the joys and fears of pregnancy and delivery. I also was on a panel with Christy for a showing of “No Woman, No Cry” at New York’s Paley Center for Media in May. We are thrilled to partner with Christy’s Every Mother Counts to educate and advocate for global maternal health.

Multimedia remains an important way of communicating our work and information on Safe Motherhood. Last year I wrote, directed, and narrated a training video on “A Continuum of Care for Postpartum Hemorrhage.” The video is also on our website.

Prevention and Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage
Prevention and Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage


Our commitment to education extends to training young people who are considering a career in health or are just starting their careers. We take this duty to foster future generations of public health professionals very seriously, and in return, we are privileged to work with many passionate and talented interns on the NASG project. We continue to host interns from Columbia University School of Medicine and School of Public Health, UC Berkeley School of Public Health, and UCSF School of Medicine. Many of our interns continue with us as staff members, such as both Kathleen McDonald, an MPH intern who is now the Zambia Copperbelt Program Manager, and Jessica DeMulder, MPH, who interned with us in Zimbabwe, and is now the Lusaka Program Manager.

Our team’s accomplishments are possible thanks to your generosity. I am deeply grateful for your confidence in our work and for recognizing the critical need for the Safe Motherhood Program. I look forward to sending you future updates and I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a peaceful and healthy 2012.


Suellen Miller, CNM, PhD

Professor, University of California San Francisco

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health

Director, Safe Motherhood Program

University of California Berkeley

School of Public Health

Maternal and Child Health Program