By Heather Reifsnyder
Ron Mataya, MD, chair of the global health department in the LLU School of Public Health, recently returned to his home country of Malawi to lecture on maternal health in that nation.
Malawi’s minister of health, Marjorie Ngaunje, and many Malawian dignitaries attended Dr. Mataya’s lecture, which was given August 31 at the University of Malawi College of Medicine. About 250 guests were present. The highlights of the program were shown on Malawi television.
Nearly 1,000 women die in childbirth for every 100,000 live births in Malawi, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
“A lot of these women die in facilities where they should be safe,” says Dr. Mataya. “This is because of overstretched health personnel, lack of education, and poverty among the people.”
In his lecture, Dr. Mataya reviewed the literature on the current state of maternal health in Malawi and on factors contributing to high maternal mortality rates.
“I also illustrated some examples of successful programs to reduce maternal mortality in countries such as Malaysia and Sri Lanka,” he says.
According to Dr. Mataya, Malawi’s Ministry of Health is applying a sector-wide approach in its plans to combat maternal mortality.
“This means that every department of the government will be involved in assuring pregnant women have access to safe care during their pregnancy, throughout labor and delivery, and after delivery,” he says.
Dr. Mataya’s lecture was the first John Chiphangwi Memorial Lecture, an annual event designed to honor the memory of Professor John Chiphangwi, who led in the founding of the college.
“Professor Chiphangwi was my mentor and friend who inspired me to become an obstetrician and gynecologist,” says Dr. Mataya. “When the principal of the College of Medicine asked me if I would be the first person to present the memorial lecture, I felt very honored.”
Dr. Mataya served on Malawi’s Safe Motherhood Task Force from 1995 to 1999. He was also a senior lecturer in the University of Malawi College of Medicine’s department of obstetrics and gynecology until 1999, when he moved to the United States to work for the nonprofit Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) as associate director of health. He later became the director of health before he joined the SPH faculty in 2005.
Each year, Dr. Mataya returns to Malawi to volunteer at Blantyre Adventist Hospital.