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How midwife Christina Mbiza’s research will help tackle maternal deaths in Malawi

Photo of Christina Mbiza

L-R: Mary Fraser, Rotary Club of Bridge of Allan and Dublane, Christina Mbiza, Prof Jayne Donaldson, University, Audrey Cooper of the Rotary Club and Prof Helen Cheyne of the University and NMAHP Research Unit

A University of Stirling Health Research student is bidding to better the lives of Malawian mothers, babies and their families.

Christina Ruth Mbiza, from Blantyre, Malawi, made the tough decision to leave her three young children at home to complete an MRes in Health Research.

Christina is a senior midwife at the busy Queen Elizabeth Hospital maternity unit in Malawi, which delivers 14,000 babies a year.

She came to Stirling to research methods to counter puerperal sepsis, a condition caused by an infection during childbirth, which accounts for 289,000 annual maternal deaths worldwide, with almost all cases occurring in low income countries.

Scotland has a strong track record of using health care methods which reduce the risk of sepsis and Christina will look to implement clean birth practices back in her homeland upon completion of her degree in September.

She said: “My children have stayed for a year without their mother for me to be here, but I had to take this opportunity as my main goal has been to come up with evidence-based solutions to improve maternal and neo-natal health in Malawi.

“I have learnt about the complexities of research and the importance of stakeholder involvement when conducting health research. I followed the framework used by the NHS in Scotland and my aim now is to use this new knowledge to come up with practices suitable for Malawi.”

Aside from her role in delivering babies, Christina mentors the young midwives and is a former Vice President of the Association of Malawian Midwives. She is also a volunteer with a number of charities supporting pregnant women in Malawi, helping to raise funds for new equipment including the renovation of a high dependency maternity unit.

“My stay at Stirling was very rewarding, added Christina. “The research at the University of Stirling is world leading and internationally recognised. The environment is very friendly, the lecturers were approachable and I have really enjoyed my time in Stirling, especially as I have met a lot of friends from different nationalities.”

Christina’s studies were supported through a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, partnered with the Limbe Club in Malawi.

Club President Dr Mary Fraser said: “Christina has charmed not only our Club, but also the Rotary District, made up of 88 Rotary Clubs in the North and East of Scotland, with around 3,000 Rotarian members. Christina made a presentation to the annual District conference where she spoke about her scholarship, which was warmly received. The Rotary Club will be continuing to work with Christina to support her project to minimise maternal sepsis.”

Professor Helen Cheyne, Royal College of Midwives (Scotland) Professor of Midwifery, said: “It has been a wonderful opportunity for the MRes team at the University of Stirling to work with the Rotary Club on this charitable scholarship and with a midwife from a country where there really is the potential to make a difference to the lives of mothers and babies. Christina has worked so hard to develop really practical research skills and flourished during the course of her studies. She now has the potential to become a research leader of the future.”

Media enquiries to David Christie, Senior Communications Officer, on 01786 466653 or email

Why women still need human support to give birth safely

Photo of Prof Helen Cheyne

Prof Helen Cheyne

Professor Helen Cheyne writes in The Conversation:

“Across the world around 390,000 women give birth each day in culturally, geographically and economically diverse settings. While pregnancy and birth is a journey of hopes, fears, and some uncertainties, the differences in birth outcomes between rich and poor are stark. Each day around 800 women die as a result of pregnancy and birth, 99% of these deaths occur in low-income countries, and the poorest women in every country fare the worst.”

Check the full article here.

Cancer Care Pathways – A Directorate for cancer patients and their families

Danika Marmara

Danika Marmara

In Malta the number of cancer incidence as well as experiences and feedback from patients and relatives has motivated the new Cancer Care Pathways Directorate to plan models of care to achieve a more positive impact across cancer services.

Around 2000 new cases of cancer are registered yearly in the Maltese Islands. The average number of male cancer cases per year is 944, while 964 females are diagnosed yearly with cancer. On average, the most common cancer sites by incidence for males include the prostate, lung, colorectum and urinary bladder, while those cancer sites ranked highest by incidence for females are namely breast, colorectal, uterus and lung cancers.

The Director of Cancer Care Pathways Directorate, Ms. Danika Marmara,is reading for a PhD in Health and Cancer Care at the University of Stirling. She leads this innovative Cancer Care Pathways Directorate and is working on aspects of care to offer support, guide and help increase access to care for cancer patients. As part of its pathway, aspects of patient needs must be continuously explored as cancer has several implications towards family life, social life and consequently society in general.

Aim of the Cancer Care Pathways Directorate

Cancer Care spans the whole patient pathway from screening or initial referral for a symptom to cancer diagnosis to cancer treatment followed by survivorship, palliative care or end-of-life to improve patient experiences and outcomes across the patient journey. On an organisational level, it aims to illustrate patient flows through the different phases of the cancer care pathways for various cancer patients with the aim of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the current service provision and improve cancer pathways.

In this regard, this directorate has commenced work on the following aspects:

  • Identifying gaps in services and improve care coordination for cancer patients and their families to improve quality and timely care;
  • Improving communication and networking between various organisations/hospitals/entities such as Primary Care, Screening programme, Mater Dei Hospital, Oncology services and NGOs;
  • Research audits have commenced to provide evidence regarding cancer pathways and timelines for breast and colorectal pathways to provide direction for implementing carecoordination and other service improvements to achieve a better and optimised cancerjourney experience;
  • Improving coordination of Palliative patients;
  • Improving patient information in the treatment stage and any other information gaps in cancer services;
  • Identifying survivorship issues through patient needs post-treatment. This research work and patient feedback shall provide a basis for the vision of the New National Cancer Plan starting 2016;
  • Identifying barriers to screening programmes to increase uptake rates.

Ms. Danika Marmara has recently spearheaded a working group entitled ‘Tailored Information in Cancer Care’ (TICC). This working group has developed cancer treatment booklets for breast, colorectal, early prostate and primary lung cancers. These booklets are the first set of written resources involving a multidisciplinary team approach in the treatment stage of the cancer journey, a stage where previously local tailored information was lacking for different cancer types. From feedback received from the healthcare professionals and patients alike, these booklets have been identified as offering clear, well-written and patient-friendly information that will be used to complement verbal information by the patient’s medical team. More work is in progress in Malta to develop resources where patient needs are being identified.

Ms Marmara can be contacted by email: