On 21 September, a flash choir of 35 “pregnant” women descended on Bucharest’s Old Town to sing a song about motherhood. They all wore the same white t-shirt, inscribed “SAMAS”.
The street performance was in fact part of a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of perinatal support for mothers to be in general, and of the SAMAS (Health for Mothers and Babies) programme in particular. This “Stand by Mums” programme was created jointly by Nutricia, the Red Cross (Crucea Rosie) and local NGO Crucea Alba (a foundation which aims to provide healthcare and education to pregnant women and young parents, and improve skills for better medical practice in the perinatal field).
Its aim is to bring together experts in maternity care and medical training to co-create a self-sustainable network of Perinatal Educators.
The mission of these educators is to help future mothers with their pregnancies and deliveries, and assist young parents faced with nutrition and care-related questions from the start of their child’s life through to toddlerhood.
Helping fill the gaps in Romania’s public health system
The idea for Stand by Mums grew out of the worrying state of the public health system in Romania. As one of the poorest European Union member states, with a National Health Care budget which has been cut by a third, Romania has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a High Risk Country. There are 3 times fewer doctors per inhabitant than the EU average, and a serious lack of “maternal assistants”, who traditionally support and educate mothers during their pregnancies and after birth. Becoming a mother in Romania is not easy; as a result, the fertility rate is down to 1.4 children per woman (the renewal rate is 2.1), and those who do become mothers struggle to find appropriate and reliable advice.
Stand by Mums was created to help fill this gap and support new parents, by recruiting, training and building a network of perinatal educators.
The programme’s pilot phase was more popular than anyone had hoped,
with nurses seeing it as both an opportunity to improve their professional knowledge and a means to supplement their income. The aim was to train 60 nurses and midwives to become SAMAS educators; over 100 registered and 82 were selected to join the programme. The drop-out rate has been negligible – only 2 nurses have left. By the end of January 2014, all 80 SAMAS Educators will have completed 2 modules of training: nutrition and perinatal care, plus a practice period and final exams. Next step: to make the initiative known to the general public and raise awareness of the importance of the health of both the mothers and their babies. September’s flash choir was part of this campaign to ensure Romanians know how crucial nutrition and health are for the development of future generations. Other initiatives are no doubt in the pipeline!