Public Release:  New $1.5 million grant boosts local efforts to save lives of moms and babies during childbirth

Child & Family Research Institute

[Vancouver - March 26, 2014] A Vancouver-led research initiative to prevent deaths of moms and babies got a boost recently with a new $1.5-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will expand efforts to improve diagnosis and care for pregnant women with pre-eclampsia.

The project, Community-Level Interventions for Pre-eclampsia (CLIP), engages communities around health issues faced by pregnant women. It provides training and resources to help health care workers in remote or underserved areas better identify and care for women at risk of the often-fatal complications of pre-eclampsia. The new grant will fund expanding the trial from its current locations in Nigeria, Pakistan and India, to Mozambique. Together, these four countries bear over half the global burden of maternal and newborn deaths.

This trial is part of a larger project to develop and test new strategies to save the lives of pregnant women with pre-eclampsia and their babies. Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia Monitoring, Prevention & Treatment (PRE-EMPT) is led by Dr. Peter von Dadelszen and includes researchers, health care providers, and experts in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North and South America.

This new grant brings the total funding awarded from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to PRE-EMPT to $25.9 million.

"This is great recognition by the Gates Foundation of this vital global partnership, which I have the immense honour to lead," says Dr. von Dadelszen. "Its legacy, and that of our global team, will be counted in the thousands of women's and infants' lives saved."

Dr. von Dadelszen is a senior clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital, consultant in Maternal Fetal Medicine at BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre, and professor with the UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. BC Children's and BC Women's are agencies of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

"The findings of this trial may be as pertinent in rural and remote Canada, as they will be throughout less developed countries," says Dr. von Dadelszen.

This announcement comes just as the research team has published new findings in PLOS Medicine showing that their clinical diagnostic predictive model, miniPIERS, is accurate 85.5 per cent of the time at identifying women with a greater-than-average risk of developing a potential fatal complication of pre-eclampsia such as seizures, stroke or failure of the lungs, kidney or liver.

Every year, ten million women around the world develop a hypertensive (high blood pressure) disorder during pregnancy and 76,000 women die as a result. Pre-eclampsia, the most serious of these disorders, is the second leading cause of child-birth related death worldwide. Over 99 per cent of those deaths occur in South Asia or Sub-Sahara Africa.

"The fatal complications of pre-eclampsia are usually preventable," says Dr. Peter von Dadelszen. "Too many deaths in Asia and Africa are because women are arriving at hospital having already suffered strokes or lost their baby. We can prevent this with training, community education and technology."

The miniPIERS (Pre-eclampsia Integrated Estimate of RiSk) model is embedded within a simple mobile-phone app, called PIERS on the Move, that was devised by Dr. von Dadelszen and his team. The app prompts health care providers to collect and input clinical data, calculates an overall risk score, and provides information for further treatment that's based on the latest research. With this information, caregivers can administer medication and arrange urgent transportation to a larger health care facility if needed.

The development of this app was featured in a new publication in the IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics. Developed in collaboration with Dr. Mark Ansermino and Dr. Guy Dumont, this technology also makes use of the phone pulse oximeter, a small smart-phone based device developed by Dr. Ansermino, Dr. Dumont and their teams that can be used to measure oxygen saturation in the blood.

These initiatives are part of the larger PRE-EMPT project led by Dr. von Dadelszen. PRE-EMPT is a research and community-level intervention project to develop and test new strategies to save the lives of pregnant women with pre-eclampsia and their babies. PRE-EMPT includes five sub-projects with researchers, clinicians and experts in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North and South America.

Dr. Ansermino is a senior associate clinician scientist and Director of the Innovations in Acute Care & Technology research cluster at CFRI; Director of Research for Pediatric Anesthesia, BC Children's; associate professor with the UBC Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Dr. Dumont is a CFRI scientist; co-director of the Electrical & Computer Engineering in Medicine (ECEM) research group at UBC; professor with the UBC Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and associate member of the UBC Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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The Child & Family Research Institute conducts discovery, translational and clinical research to benefit the health of children and their families. CFRI is supported by BC Children's Hospital Foundation and works in close partnership with the University of British Columbia, BC Children's Hospital, and BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre (agencies of the Provincial Health Services Authority). For more information, visit http://www.cfri.ca.

BC Children's Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is British Columbia's only pediatric hospital and home to many specialized pediatric services available nowhere else in the province, including BC's trauma centre for children, pediatric intensive care, kidney and bone marrow transplants, open heart surgery, neurosurgery and cancer treatment. Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children is the provincial facility that offers specialized child development and rehabilitation services to children and youth. For more information, please visit http://www.bcchildrens.ca.

BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre is the only facility in British Columbia caring for the comprehensive health needs of women, newborn babies and families. For more than 80 years, BC Women's has been a leader in providing maternity and newborn health care. Averaging 7,000 births annually, we are best known as one of Canada's pre-eminent obstetrical centres.

About 20% of British Columbia's babies are born at BC Women's. BC Women's also provides one-of-a-kind care to meet women's specialized health needs throughout their lives. Our philosophy is women-centred care: we use our research and experience to develop unique programs and services just for women. BC Women's will host a cord blood bank collection service in collaboration with Canadian Blood Services. For more information, please visit: http://www.bcwomens.ca.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit http://www.phsa.ca.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is one of North America's largest public research and teaching institutions, and one of only two Canadian institutions consistently ranked among the world's 40 best universities. Surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian West, it is a place that inspires bold, new ways of thinking that have helped make it a national leader in areas as diverse as community service learning, sustainability and research commercialization. UBC offers more than 56,000 students a range of innovative programs and attracts $550 million per year in research funding from government, non-profit organizations and industry through over 8,000 projects and grants. For more information, please visit http://www.ubc.ca.

Media Contact:
Stephanie Dunn
Communications Specialist
Child & Family Research Institute
604-875-2678 | sdunn@cfri.ca

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