Measuring, then mitigating, the health effects of the common practice of yu fai (mother roasting) for recent parity women and their babies in Lao PDR.
Lao PDR is well short of the 2015 targets for MDGs 4 and 5. It has one of the highest Maternal and Infant Mortality ratios in the Western Pacific Region. Furthermore the levels of maternal and infant morbidity, especially from pneumonia and other respiratory infections, are very high. A key likely contributor to post-parity maternal and infant deaths and morbidity is exposure, for both mothers and infants, to extreme heat and smoke pollution during the yu fai process (mother roasting) which is practiced by over 90% of Lao families for up to 45 days after birth. No attempts have been made to examine the impact on the health of mothers and newborns.
The key challenges are to:
- measure the levels of heat and smoke exposure during "yu fai" and the effects of such exposure on key indicators of health status.
- develop the technology to adapt the yu fai ritual such that it is smokeless and within an acceptable temperature range so that it causes no harm to mothers and babies.
- generate communication materials and networks to inform communities of the health advantages of smokeless and moderate heat yu fai technology which empowers women in their communities to make healthy choices for themselves and their children
- monitor heat and smoke levels with simple and cheap data-loggers and
- collate qualitative data on why yu fai is so central to postnatal care and identify what 'safe' adaptations would be acceptable to communities unwilling to abandon it.