The Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research is a partnership committed to improving maternal and infant health outcomes and building health research capacity in resource-poor settings by testing cost-effective, sustainable interventions. The Global Network was initiated in 2001 as a public-private partnership between the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Center for Research for Mothers and Children, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Global Network currently includes a Data Coordinating Center (DCC) and seven multidisciplinary research units around the world, each comprising a partnership between a research institution in a developing nation and one in the United States. The NICHD provides scientific oversight for the Global Network and all of its activities.
Initially, the Global Network included 10 sites and a DCC, and it conducted 10 large, individual studies of interventions for important health problems in pregnancy and birth. Today, the Global Network focuses on community-based common protocols, conducted at three or more sites, that address major maternal and newborn health challenges with the goals to evaluate low-cost, sustainable interventions to improve maternal and child health (MCH), evaluate trends in MCH mortality over time, and simultaneously build local research capacity and infrastructure. This unique position gives the NICHD the ability to identify gaps between science and practice and disseminate the research findings to inform local and national health policy. Each study examines either a novel evidence-based treatment or an innovative use of a proven treatment to improve the health, well-being, and survival of pregnant women and infants. All studies conform to U.S. and international ethical and safety guidelines.
During its tenure, several NIH Institutes and Centers, including the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the Fogarty International Center, and the National Cancer Institute, in addition to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have supported projects or parts of projects conducted by the Global Network. The program has recently issued a 5-year renewal Funding Opportunity Announcement for which the National Institute of Mental Health is collaborating.
In addition, the Global Network builds partnerships with national, international, and nonprofit organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Through these partnerships, the Global Network provides evidence for program development and advocacy, informs decisions about health policy, assists in scaling up effective interventions, and builds infrastructure.
The Global Network’s DCC, RTI International based in North Carolina, provides protocol and data management, information technology, and logistical and statistical support to Global Network projects.
Among other current and recently completed studies, the Global Network’s common protocol topics include:
- Maternal Newborn Health Registry: A prospective population-based study of pregnancy outcomes at seven sites in six developing countries
- Complementary Feeding: The effect of a child’s diet during weaning on growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes
- Antenatal Corticosteroids (ACT): The effects of corticosteroids (a kind of hormone) given to high-risk pregnant women to reduce death among low-birth-weight infants
- First Breath: The effectiveness of a health worker training program in essential newborn care and resuscitation to prevent newborn death from asphyxiation (inability to breathe)
- Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC): Training of community and health providers on the factors that lead to poor pregnancy outcomes, including death, and to develop locale-specific interventions to improve these outcomes
- Misoprostol Study: Use of this inexpensive drug by community nurses to reduce maternal death and postpartum hemorrhage
- Community Birth Attendant Study: Evaluation of roles, skills, and practices of birth attendants in resource-poor countries
- Household Air Pollution: A study to evaluate the effect of indoor cooking stoves on birth weight and newborn death
- India (2 sites)
- Christiana Care Health Services (Newark, DE)
- Columbia University (New York, NY)
- Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
- Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)
- Tulane University (New Orleans, LA)
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL)
- University of Colorado, Denver (Denver, CO)