Understanding maternity waiting home uptake and scale-up within low-income and middle-income countries: a programme theory from a realist review and synthesis
Uwamahoro, Nadege Sandrine
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Uwamahoro, N.S., McRae, D., Zibrowski, E., Victor-Uadiale, I., Gilmore, B., Bergen, N. and Muhajarine, N. (2022) ‘Understanding maternity waiting home uptake and scale-up within low-income and middle-income countries: a programme theory from a realist review and synthesis’, BMJ Global Health, 7(9), p. e009605. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2022-009605.
Introduction: Maternity waiting homes (MWHs) link pregnant women to skilled birth attendance at health facilities. Research suggests that some MWH-facility birth interventions are more success at meeting the needs and expectations of their intended users than others. We aimed to develop theory regarding what resources work to support uptake and scale-up of MHW-facility birth interventions, how, for whom, in what contexts and why. Methods: A four-step realist review was conducted which included development of an initial programme theory; searches for evidence; selection, appraisal and extraction of data; and analysis and data synthesis. Results: A programme theory was developed from 106 secondary sources and 12 primary interviews with MWH implementers. The theory demonstrated that uptake and scale-up of the MWH-facility birth intervention depends on complex interactions between three adopter groups: health system stakeholders, community gatekeepers and pregnant women and their families. It describes relationships between 19 contexts, 11 mechanisms and 31 outcomes accross nine context-mechanism-outcome configurations (CMOCs) which were grouped into 3 themes: (1) Engaging stakeholders to develop, integrate, and sustain MWH-facility birth interventions, (2) Promoting and enabling MWH-facility birth utilisation and (3) Creating positive and memorable MWH-facility birth user experiences. Belief, trust, empowerment, health literacy and perceptions of safety, comfort and dignity were mechanisms that supported diffusion and adoption of the intervention within communities and health systems. Examples of resources provided by implementers to trigger mechanisms associated with each CMOC were identified. Conclusions: Implementers of MWHs cannot merely assume that communities will collectively value an MWH-facility birth experience over delivery at home. We posit that MWH-facility birth interventions become vulnerable to under-utilisation when implementers fail to: (1) remove barriers that hinder women’s access to MWH and (2) ensure that conditions and interactions experienced within the MWH and its affiliated health facility support women to feel treated with compassion, dignity and respect. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020173595.