Google has announced a new tool to help decision makers and public health organizations assess geographic access to emergency obstetric care (EmOC) in Nigeria’s 15 largest cities.
The tool uses Google’s internal directions Application Programming Interface (API) to estimate the travel time to the nearest, second nearest, and third nearest EmOC facilities in specific regions of the country.
This will aid decision-makers in expanding ambulatory services, making road improvements, adding new facilities or upgrading existing ones, and more.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 70% of maternal deaths that occur worldwide due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria contributing the most to global maternal health deaths.
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The tool by Google, in collaboration with the OnTIME Consortium, will show decision makers how quickly expectant mothers can access emergency obstetric care in Nigeria’s largest cities. The OnTIME Consortium has contributed verified emergency obstetric care facilities to the tool.
Evidence shows that long travel times from home to a health facility significantly impact pregnancy outcomes for mothers and newborns.
Timely access to EmOC can reduce maternal deaths and intrapartum stillbirths by as much as 50% and 75%, respectively.
Current approaches to estimating the time it takes expectant mothers to reach EmOC are limited, but this digital dashboard will provide a critical tool for service planners and policymakers looking at optimizing geographical accessibility to critical maternal health services.
“We are excited to collaborate with the OnTIME Consortium to make this tool available to decision makers in Nigeria,” said Olumide Balogun, Google Nigeria’s Interim Lead. “We hope that governments and public health organizations will use this tool to better support the health of their communities, by helping mothers and infants access care more quickly.”
The tool builds on a dataset Google released in 2021 that revealed the average travel times to COVID-19 vaccination facilities. Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School for Public Health in Massachusetts used that dataset to help identify “vaccine desserts” and inform vaccination efforts.
Google also collaborated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to quantify geographic access to parks across nearly 500 metropolitan areas in six countries.
“We’re looking forward to learning from our rollout in Nigeria and expanding to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in the coming months,” Balogun added.
The new tool is expected to contribute significantly to improving maternal and newborn health in Nigeria and other countries in the region.