Harvard team presents plan to prevent common childbirth injury in India

2 min read

Say you’ve got $30 million to develop a five-year pilot plan for preventing and treating thousands of women in India who suffer from a serious childbirth-related injury called an obstetric fistula.

But you have just five days to come up with the plan.

That was the challenge faced by five Harvard graduate students—two from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and three from other Harvard schools—in a competition that drew 24 teams from around the world.

The teams met in early April at Emory University. Each team had received the global health “case,” provided by Emory’s Global Health Institute, the previous week. The teams were asked to present an innovative solution to the problem of obstetric fistula—a hole in the birth canal, caused by obstructed labor, that can lead to permanent incontinence if untreated. The condition disproportionately affects poor women in India, and social stigma often prevents them from seeking medical care or even discussing the problem.

The Harvard team that earned a spot in the Emory competition included master of public health student Jason Sarfo-Annin and doctoral epidemiology student Andrew Rothman, both from Harvard Chan School; Matthew Strickland and Namrata Turaga of Harvard Business School; and Ge Zhang, a chemistry student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.The team was chosen to compete in Atlanta because they’d won Harvard’s own global health case competition in February.