Action leveraging evidence to reduce perinatal mortality and morbidity (ALERT): study protocol for a stepped-wedge cluster-randomised trial in Benin, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda
Insufficient reductions in maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths in the past decade are a deterrence to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 3. The majority of deaths occur during the intrapartum and immediate postnatal period. Overcoming the knowledge-do-gap to ensure implementation of known evidence-based interventions during this period has the potential to avert at least 2.5 million deaths in mothers and their offspring annually. This paper describes a study protocol for implementing and evaluating a multi-faceted health care system intervention to strengthen the implementation of evidence-based interventions and responsive care during this crucial period.
Methods: This is a cluster randomised stepped-wedge trial with a nested realist process evaluation across 16 hospitals in Benin, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. The ALERT intervention will include four main components: i) end-user participation through narratives of women, families and midwifery providers to ensure co-design of the intervention; ii) competency-based training; iii) quality improvement supported by data from a clinical perinatal eregistry and iv) empowerment and leadership mentoring of maternity unit leaders complemented by district based bi-annual coordination and accountability meetings. The trial’s primary outcome is in-facility perinatal (stillbirths and early neonatal) mortality, in which we expect a 25% reduction. A perinatal e-registry will be implemented to monitor the trial. Our nested realist process evaluation will help to understand what works, for whom, and under which conditions. We will apply a gender lens to explore constraints to the provision of evidence-based care by health workers providing maternity services. An economic evaluation will assess the scalability and costeffectiveness of ALERT intervention.