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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

BU: Alum Spotlights Global Mistreatment of Pregnant Women

Boston University School of Public Health alum Ms. Hedieh Mehrtash has a passion for improving the quality of care in health systems. With a focus on global health, Ms. Mehrtash completed the Master of Public Health program to gain the skill sets needed to study and improve the user’s experience of the healthcare system.

Now Ms. Mehrtash is translating those skills into real-world practice as a quality of life researcher in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Reproductive Health and Research. She recently served as second author of a major WHO-led study that shows that more than one-third of women in four lower-income countries experienced mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities. The study, which was published in the Lancet, was the first to use WHO’s evidence-based, standardized tools to measure how women are treated during childbirth.

Ms. Mehrtash led the data analysis of the impactful study, which she has been working on since she began her current role in July 2018.

Focusing on women in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar, and Nigeria, the study showed that 42 percent of women observed during labor and 35 percent of women surveyed experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma, or discrimination. Mistreatment was most severe 30 minutes prior to birth and 15 minutes after, and more likely to occur among younger women with less education.

“Given the limited evidence around experience of care of women during childbirth, our study enables you to better understand the nuances of what’s happening across multiple settings with one tool,” says Ms. Mehrtash.

By highlighting these nuances, Ms. Mehrtash hopes that quality of care and the overall experience of women during such a significant time in their lives will improve.

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