Lowering maternal mortality rates with digital street theater

Maternal and child death rates are rising abroad and in the United States. Everywhere, mortality rates are particularly high among low-literacy families.

Kentaro Toyama, W K Kellogg Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) and Mustafa Naseem, Clinical Assistant Professor of Information at UMSI, secured a grant of $500,000 from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) to learn more about and address this issue. 

While causes for the rise in mortality rates differ by country, mothers’ health knowledge and habits have a significant influence on rates across contexts. Which is why Toyama and Naseem, along with Melissa Densmore of the University of Cape Town and Agha Ali Raza of the Information Technology University, will use “digital street theater” to educate families in the United States, South Africa, and Pakistan.

Digital street theater is a new genre involving the distribution of traditional but educational street theater skits through locally specific digital channels. Information presented by digital street theater is more accessible to the low-literacy families that need reliable information about healthcare in order to reduce mortality rates than mainstream sources. 

"The Digital Street Theater team is honored and humbled to be among the three projects selected by the NAKFI Challenge jury,” says Toyama. “We plan to do everything we can both to advance maternal health and to demonstrate the value of transcontinental, interdisciplinary research.”

“Digital Street Theater for Global Maternal and Child Health Education,” was one of three projects selected from 78 proposals to receive the NAKFI Challenge Award, a competition of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative. The other two were “Institutionalizing Interdisciplinary: A cross-institutional network to synthesize what is working (and not) in the pursuit of transformative sustainability science,” led by Bonnie Keeler of the University of Minnesota, and “Ocean Memory: A New Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Global-Scale Challenges,” led by Jody Deming of the University of Washington.

Posted September 6, 2018