How can health studies create change?
Dr Bhutta has been working in child and maternal health since the 1970s, saying “Women and children, particularly young children, need to be at the centre of the sustainable development goals for us to reach our human capital potential.”
One of his early studies found that in South Asia, over half of newborn and infant deaths occurred in village or rural settings, in the areas with fewest health service providers. He tested whether encouraging Pakistan’s Lady Health Workers to undertake outreach with groups of pregnant women could reduce neonatal mortality in rural Sindh and saw such a significant reduction of stillbirths and neonatal mortality that he sent his team to recheck their numbers. India would soon adopt this practice for its Asha health workers, demonstrating how large-scale implementation research can influence policy and affect entire populations.
As he nears the end of his four decades at AKU, with an array of awards and top-level positions to his name, Dr Bhutta is leading three international studies to improve child and adolescent health and nutrition, address women and children’s health in humanitarian and conflict settings, and tackle the challenges of climate change and health for women and children in at-risk populations in South Asia. How did he incorporate such varied factors when working to improve maternal and child health?