Dr Georgina Murphy, health systems researcher was working at the University Oxford and the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya. She is an epidemiologist by training and has been working on health systems strengthening on the Health Services that Deliver for newborns (HSD-N) programme in Kenya with her main focus on neonatal care.
The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme is a major Wellcome Trust’s overseas programmes. Its work has had a major influence on national and international health policy. Research spans a wide variety of topics and disciplines including research on malaria and bacterial and viral infectious diseases, work to map disease risk and intervention coverage and work on research ethics and health systems strengthening.
My name is Georgina Murphy, I’m an epidemiologist by training but have a combination of backgrounds starting with molecular medicine, then development studies combined with epidemiology to try and take a more holistic approach to global health issues.
At the moment, I work on health systems strengthening in Kenya, with a particular focus on neonatal care. Our particular interest on neonates stems from this large issue where 45% of all under-5 deaths occur in the neonatal period. That’s almost half of all childhood mortality occurring in just the first month of life. We know that great gains can be made with preventing these deaths if we focus on improving the quality of care the newborns receive within health facilities. But a lot of newborns aren’t accessing the health facilities, and those who do access quite often are being cared for in facilities that have sub-optimal provision of care.
We’re really lucky in Nairobi County in Kenya to better understand what some of these gaps are with regard to access to neonatal services, and then also the quality gaps that exist. We also appreciate that nurses are the primary care givers for small and sick babies in this setting, so we’re trying to understand the role of nurses in providing this care, and the challenges they face.
Our aim, once we have a better picture of what’s happening with these vulnerable babies, is to bring the evidence together with expert opinion, and to have stakeholders on board who have been working with us throughout the whole processs, so that we can provide evidence for policy and practice improvements. It’s about empowering people on the ground who want to make a change and want to see improvements for this vulnerable group, and enabling them to do so by providing the evidence, so that they can see where their intention can be best placed and what type of improvements would make a big difference.
I find this whole process very fulfilling, as you would have gathered from the first statements that I come from quite a mixture of different backgrounds. Health services research has been fairly new to me in the last four years, but I find it really valuable working with a multi-disciplinary team and being able to approach a health issue from a lot of different angles.
I think it’s important, particularly for young researchers who may be thinking of embarking on a career, particularly one within global health, that you don’t narrow your focus too much and you think about what other disciplines can bring to what are essentially complex problems, and that you also listen to people on the ground, be they within your own local facility or even internationally to try and get a bigger, fuller picture of the challenges faced by a number of different players. I think with those different perspectives both disciplinary and from different individuals you get a good understanding of the fabric of a problem and can feel empowered and enabled to think about what some of the research solutions might be.