McMaster University researcher Narendra Singh is ready to transform maternal and neonatal care in his native Guyana, thanks to $2.5 million from the federal government for his organization Giving Health to Kids (GHTK).

GHTK aims to improve mother and child health care in Guyana’s hinterland, a vast area of tropical savannah and rugged jungle, whose scattered villages are often accessible only by boat or plane and lack even basic health-care services.

Singh, president of GHTK, advisor to Guyana’s minister of health and an associate clinical professor of the Department of Pediatrics said both infant and maternal mortality in these remote Indigenous Guyanese communities remains high. Thanks to ongoing investments by McMaster in training medical staff and the opening of neonatal intensive care units, nationwide infant mortality rates have nearly halved from 30 to 17 per 1,000. GHTK aims to reduce infant mortality rates further, getting to 12 per 1,000 by 2030, but investment in remote communities is essential for shifting the dial.

“I speak as a Guyanese when I say I’m extremely grateful to McMaster’s contribution to building capacity in Guyana. The university is extremely receptive to any ideas with respect to partnering with the country,” said Singh.

“McMaster has partnered with Guyana for more than 15 years to build its health-care sector, developing a range of postgrad programs including pediatrics and surgery, among others. McMaster is the primary university in the world working to build capacity in Guyana.”

In late 2021, McMaster signed a memorandum of agreement with the Guyanese government for specialist fellowship training programs at the university.

Now, the federal funding from Global Affairs Canada will allow GHTK to provide advice and expertise to remote Guyanese communities, as well as purchase medical equipment and supplies.

This will include ensuring women have adequate prenatal care from the start of their pregnancies, including nutrition, immunization, proper screening including at least one ultrasound and access to an obstetrician. At birth, GHTK will ensure that medical personnel are trained to safely resuscitate a baby in an emergency.

GHTK will also work to reduce teenage pregnancies in remote communities through education and outreach.

“It is a continuum of care from the time of conception to a healthy baby,” said Singh.

“The government of Guyana wants to bring health care into the 21st century. It is currently building 10 hospitals throughout the country, but infrastructure is not a solution unless you build local capacity of properly trained physicians, nurses and allied professionals,” said Singh.

Learn more about Narendra Singh on his McMaster Experts profile.

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