This partnership's purpose is to advance scientific discoveries and deliver well-informed, locally led services to communities based on those discoveries.
The School of Nursing established the in-country office through which almost all Emory-Ethiopia projects and initiatives are run: The Emory University Ethiopia Country Office, directed by Dr. Abebe Gobezayehu. Importantly, much of the research produced by the Emory-Ethiopia partnership is co-authored by scientists across Ethiopia and the US and is having measurable, positive impacts in both countries.
Examples of pivotal NHWSN-sponsored projects designed to meet Ethiopia’s pressing healthcare needs include:
- A nationwide initiative to improve maternal-infant health: This work focuses on simple, low- or no-cost health measures that patients, families, and frontline workers can implement on their own. Examples include KMC (formerly known as kangaroo mother care) and the Global Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP), among others. Many of these projects target the crucial days before and after birth, when mothers and babies are most vulnerable to life-threatening complications.
“The partnership aspect of this work is critical,” notes Dr. John Cranmer, Principal Investigator for the KMC study. “Scientific evidence runs through our priorities, but this evidence is customized to each local situation—and that’s really the key to affecting change. The connections between global, national, regional, and local players is absolutely essential to ensuring success for the mothers and babies we serve.”
- The first PhD in nursing program in Ethiopia: This unique program takes place across both Addis Ababa University (AAU) and NHWSN. It’s the first PhD in nursing program in Ethiopia and one of the only PhD programs in Africa to use a hybrid in-person & distance-learning approach.
Students are prepared to take on important roles as nurse scientists, educators, and national nursing leaders upon graduation. They are encouraged not only to advance knowledge surrounding Ethiopia’s population health needs, but also to sustain the PhD in Nursing Program by eventually assuming AAU leadership and faculty roles themselves.
- Student-led nursing regulatory change: Emory-AAU PhD in Nursing students are already advocating for a better nursing future in Ethiopia. Learn about two students who are advocating for national nursing reforms, including a national nursing council to set standards for training, licensure, and continuous professional education.
The Movement to End Maternal-Infant Mortality in Ethiopia
Emory School of Nursing is playing a crucial role in this decade-long national effort
Emory School of Nursing (NHWSN) is a founding partner in a decade-long initiative dedicated to improving maternal-infant health in Ethiopia. Now an NGO (non-governmental organization) headquartered in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Emory University Ethiopia is bringing together partners and stakeholders (families, communities, government orgs, health facilities, and others) from across Ethiopia and around the globe.
Started in 2010 by Dr. Lynn Sibley, with support from a $5 million Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, the school’s work has consistently involved projects that:
- Are locally led (with collaborative input from people at many levels)
- Involve simple, low- or no-cost interventions
- Can be implemented by patients, families, and frontline health workers
- May be readily adapted to different locations
- Are based on extensive scientific evidence
Answering a pressing need
The protection of mothers and babies is one of Ethiopia’s most urgent healthcare priorities: Women in Ethiopia have a 1 in 52 chance of dying from childbirth-related complications, and more than 120,000 infants die during the neonatal period (the first 28 days of life) every year, according to USAID. These facts underscore the critical importance of Emory-Ethiopia’s maternal-infant health work. NHWSN faculty and students, and their counterparts at the Country Office, are partnering with communities to implement measures such as:
- KMC (formerly called Kangaroo Mother Care): KMC is the simple act of holding an infant in constant skin-to-skin contact during the first days of life. While it typically involves exclusive breastfeeding, any parent or guardian can provide KMC (not just new moms). This practice—which is backed by more than 35 years of research—has been shown to be at least as effective as an ICU incubator in improving survival for low-birth-weight infants (
NHWSN faculty and students are helping to scale up KMC in the Amhara region of Ethiopia (as part of a larger consortium targeting four regions in Ethiopia and two in India). Their aim is to reach a population area of 1,126,093. They also aim to ensure that any mothers with babies who need KMC are able to learn about it and practice it effectively—with a benchmark that at least 80% of eligible infants receive KMC within the studied time period.
- Global Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP): This project, implemented in partnership with UNICEF, mobilizes thousands across Ethiopia to act upon one shared belief: Every newborn deserves the highest possible standard of care.
In order to spread best practice awareness and streamline referrals for at-risk infants, researchers have developed a groundbreaking information sharing network. This network involves creative communication mechanisms, such as “cascade” training. With cascade training, health professionals take classes on how to effectively train others in quality care; they then teach health extension workers, who in turn share knowledge with communities, and so on.
So far, 75 health professionals have trained 320 health extension workers, who have shared lifesaving information with 2,240 community team members (and counting). Together, they are identifying at-risk infants sooner and referring them for appropriate care faster than ever before, even in the hardest-to-reach places.
NHWSN faculty are also helping to counteract severe bloodstream infections, or sepsis, in newborns (which remains a leading cause of death in children under five). Teams from the nursing school are involved in several major studies on sepsis treatment and prevention. These studies include community and facility settings and span the spectrum of care.
Funding for the Emory-Ethiopia Country Office has been provided by NHWSN and international donor organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For media or donor inquiries, or to find out about joining the Emory-Ethiopia network, please contact Rose Hayes, Senior Manager of Communications.
More than a PhD
Rejecting Borders, Rejecting Boundaries
The innovative Emory-AAU PhD in Nursing Program is the first nursing PhD program in Ethiopia and the only one of its kind in Africa. It’s offered in collaboration between Emory School of Nursing (NHWSN) and Addis Ababa University (AAU) and involves a hybrid in-person and distance-learning approach. Students attend some courses at AAU and use advanced technologies, like an interactive smart classroom, to participate in NHWSN courses in real-time, alongside NHWSN students.
AAU students receive continuous academic and professional support from a dedicated NHWSN faculty mentor throughout the program. Mentors are paired with students using a careful matching system; this system is designed to ensure that students’ research interests align with mentor expertise and may one day impact both Ethiopian and US health outcomes.
Mentors and mentees meet regularly, including at an intensive four-week writing immersion experience, which takes place on Emory campus in Atlanta, Ga, during the summer of their second or third year. The intensive is an opportunity for students to:
- Work face-to-face with their Emory mentors
- Write and defend their dissertation proposal
- Complete professional development activities, such as informational interviews and networking
They’re encouraged to formally discuss post-graduation plans, such as post-doctoral fellowships or faculty opportunities, at this point.
In addition to training a cadre of highly qualified nurse scientists, the Emory-AAU PhD in Nursing Program was designed to prepare students who may one day:
- Advance Ethiopian health system reform
- Play lead roles in ensuring universal healthcare for all Ethiopians
- Mentor the next generation of nurse scientists
In fact, the program model assumes that some students will eventually join AAU’s doctorate-prepared faculty and teach future PhDs, a key aim being that AAU will one day sustain the program without Emory support. The first Emory-AAU graduate, Dr. Fekadu Aga, is now Program Coordinator at AAU.
Furthermore, two of the enrolled students are actively involved in national nursing reform efforts. These students are helping to organize a team of nurses who are collaborating with a national task force on healthcare regulation. The task force is designed to ensure that healthcare professionals, including nurses, are trained with an approved curriculum, pass a national qualifying exam, become licensed, and continue professional development once they are in the workforce.
NHWSN is leveraging its international network to connect the Ethiopian regulatory taskforce with Kenyan nurse leaders. That includes the Registrar of Kenya’s Nursing Council and a former national Chief Nursing Officer through a “South-to-South” collaboration. That is, Kenya—a country with a strong health workforce regulatory system—is sharing its successes, experience, knowledge, and materials with Ethiopia to help fast-track the formation of Ethiopian regulatory councils.
Want to Know More?
Questions, including media inquiries, donor, and partner requests, may be directed to Rose Hayes, Senior Communications Manager.