International Health

The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Alberta is passionate about working towards improved health outcomes worldwide. We accomplish this by working alongside local communities and clinical care and research groups who wish to benefit from collaboration with us.

At present, our faculty is involved in three international health projects in the fields of Urogynecology, Maternal-Fetal Health, and Newborn and Child Health. Successful outcomes in these areas help;

  • lower infant and maternal mortality rates
  • train local doctors, nurses and midwives
  • raise regional health awareness to promote available health services
  • provide information and care to women in remote communities
  • build educational and clinical initiatives.

Urogynecology Clinic International Initiative in Peru

Pelvic floor disorders are a group of conditions that affect 1 in 4 women over the age of 20 which negatively influence a women's quality of life and sense of well-being. These conditions include urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine), fecal incontinence (involuntary leakage of stool), and pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor disorders decrease the physical, emotional and social health of women worldwide.

With the help of Sombrilla, a local NGO, we have started an initiative to provide pelvic floor health to indigenous and underprivileged women in remote areas of Peru. The project began in March 2014 when a needs assessment determined these women were not receiving the pelvic floor care they required and the local health care professionals embraced our help in this area.

Going forward our goal is to educate and empower the Peruvian health care providers, so they can provide much needed pelvic floor care the women of Peru deserve. We hope to create a self-sustaining program for pelvic floor education and conservative treatment in South America. Two of our Urogynecology Division faculty members-Dr. Cathy Flood and Dr. Jane Schulz-are co-directors of this initiative.

All funds raised go to support this important educational program. Learn more about donating through CanadaHelps.Org.

Managing Urinary Incontinence in Elderly Village Women in Rural Bangladesh

This mixed methods study used groups of Bangladeshi women in both Canada and Bangladesh in order to gain information on design of a continence record. Urinary diaries allow a relatively non-expensive, non-invasive means of investigating lower urinary tract symptoms. The aim of this study was to develop such a diary in preparation for testing in the field.

Although diaries are extensively used in research and clinical practice there are none which have been used in a largely illiterate adult population. One of the goals of the study included developing a bladder diary suitable for use in the field for illiterate subjects which was both paper free and able to be concealed for the preservation of confidentiality for those with incontinence, where the condition is viewed with much stigma.

The diary consisted of three paired ribbons, red and yellow, secured to a string which allowed the ribbons to be tied around the waist. Each pair of ribbons was intended to represent a day.

Tying a knot in the yellow ribbon indicated a micturition episode and tying a knot in the red ribbon, an incontinence episode. The record was used by 122 women aged 60 - 75 years. The aim of this study was to develop such a diary in preparation for testing in the field.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jane Schulz or consult the abstracts below.

Ethiopia-Canada Maternal Newborn and Child Health Project

Working with key partners in Ethiopia and Canada, a team from the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry is leading a project to reduce maternal and child mortality. The project, financed by the Canadian government's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, has two focuses:

  1. Helping experienced midwives become better at passing on their skills to newer colleagues, and
  2. Enhancing the country's capacity to effectively treat labouring mothers and their children when complications arise.

As many as 25,000 women in Ethiopia die in childbirth each year, and almost three times that many new newborns do not survive the first 28 days of life. Our collaboration of Canadian and Ethiopian colleagues will help reduce this appalling, medically unnecessary toll by building up the clinical and teaching skills in the country's rapidly expanding corps of midwifery instructors, and by targeting gaps in the referral system for difficult childbirth cases.

The director of our project, Dr. Roger Turnell, is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Alberta.