Morgan Yapundich, MD(c)

Nominated From: University of Michigan

Research Site: Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana

Research Area: Public Health/Maternal Health/Obstetrics

Primary Mentors: Dr. Samuel A Oppong, Dr. Cheryl A. Moyer

Research Project

An Approach to Improve Knowledge of Sickle Cell Disease in Ghanaian Pregnant Women

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic condition caused by a point mutation in the beta hemoglobin gene, resulting in sickle-shaped red blood cells that lead to serious health complications, such as infection, acute chest syndrome, and stroke. Although this condition affects more than 20 million people worldwide, greater than 75% of the global burden of SCD occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior literature has highlighted the need to address the deficit in the knowledge base among pregnant Ghanaian women regarding their sickle cell trait (SCT) or SCD status in a cultural and context-appropriate manner. With the help of my colleagues, my project will focus on developing an educational intervention to increase health literacy amongst Ghanaian pregnant women with SCT or SCD regarding the medical complications associated with SCD, the risks in pregnancy, and how trait status may affect their future child’s health. After designing such an intervention, I will then assess the efficacy of the tool in delivering such information through immediate and delayed knowledge assessments.

Research Significance

In Ghana, roughly 2% of newborns have sickle cell disease (SCD), and between 25 to 30% of all births in Ghana have the sickle cell trait (SCT). Currently, apart from the few satellite centers for newborn screening, the majority of SCD testing is opportunistic and mainly during the prenatal period for pregnant women. Notably, the practice of routine SCT screening in prenatal clinics has not been shown to correlate with increased self-report of SCT, which highlights a gap in patient-provider communication. Health literacy directly affects health outcomes. My work will address the need for a method to improve the knowledge base of pregnant Ghanaian women regarding their SCT or SCD status. Through these efforts, these patients will hopefully gain the knowledge and in turn, the self-confidence and power to control their individual health journey.


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