Launching a Model for Maternity Homes in Africa

2017

Jonas Nguh, a Walden University alumnus and current adjunct faculty member in the graduate school of nursing, has a heart of service, evidenced by his constant drive to start meaningful programs, gain new knowledge, and serve people no matter where he goes. Originally from Cameroon and now a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, he recently launched a model for maternity homes in sub-Saharan Africa, and due to the clarity and success of the approach, the model has now been adopted in four countries: Senegal, Zambia, India, and Uganda.

Growing up in Cameroon in a family of all women, Nguh was acutely aware of the outsize risks that women, particularly mothers, face. He is a nurse by training and went on to receive his Ph.D. in public health from Walden. As he gained more academic knowledge about healthcare, he knew there had to be a better way to take care of mothers and also lift up communities.

“I have seen firsthand how women are so often disenfranchised,” Nguh said. “I wanted to focus on empowering this population group and improving their living conditions.” The statistics on maternal health in Africa were staggering to him, and he points out that in developing countries, the maternal mortality ratio is 230 women per 100,000 births, compared to 16 women per 100,000 births in developed countries.

The model that Nguh developed focuses on microeconomic principles and is a community cooperative, compelling all involved with it to feel ownership of the physical space and, eventually, the health of the women in their community. It takes the form of a residential obstetric facility where women can stay prior to childbirth and receive all the medical care they need. It is truly a community effort, as it is partially supported by revenue-generating activities carried out by other women in the community, like gardening, raising animals, and beekeeping. The long-term sustainability of this model was the most important factor to Nguh, and he has been encouraged to see the model adopted in other countries and contexts. He estimates that it has now impacted more than two million people.

This effort to improve maternal health in his native Africa is not the only sort of service Nguh has taken on in recent years; he has been leading and starting community projects his entire life, all motivated by his passion to give back. From the time he arrived in the United States as a young man, he was passionate about helping other immigrants adjust to their new lives. This led him to start a nonprofit that links immigrants to the services and support in their areas. He also noticed the gap in advocacy for those with developmental disabilities during his time working as a nurse in an assisted living facility. He then started a small assisted living facility in Baltimore that addresses this specific gap. He also traveled to Haiti in 2010 to serve as a first responder to the earthquake there. And as a professor of nursing, he challenged his students to start their own service-minded projects, eventually supporting one particularly strong project that raised more than $1 million to provide vaccines to refugees worldwide. With this history of service, coming onboard as a faculty member at Walden was a natural fit.

“I have always connected with Walden’s social change mission,” Nguh said. This comes as no surprise given his personal track record of service, one that he hopes will resonate with his students and everyone he comes in contact with.