Image: James Duah with people in his community

Ford Foundation International Fellow Dr. James Duah Reduces Maternal Mortality in Ghana

Can funding the post-graduate academic pursuits of emerging social justice leaders from marginalized groups lead to significant, measurable benefits for communities and organizations worldwide? The answer is a definitive yes. James Duah, a Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program (IFP) Participant, is an outstanding example of someone who took their education and drastically improved the lives of the people in their home country and community. 

James trained at Tulane University School of Public Health from 2011 to 2013 with support from the Ford IFP Program. During his training a common phrase that resonated with him was “go and fill the world with knowledge”. After receiving his Masters in Public Health, he resolved to help reduce maternal mortality, a critical national issue in his home country of Ghana. 

Quotation from James Duah The King’s Medical Centre (KMC), where James now works, is a hospital in the Kumbungu district of Northern Ghana that serves 238 communities with a population of over 130,000 people. Through the collective effort of nurses, doctors, security men, orderlies and the community, every single one of the 721 women (that is over 735 babies and 23 sets of twins) who delivered at the KMC survived. To meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on maternal mortality (SDG-3), little efforts such as this may mean a lot for Ghana. 

As a team, our goal for 2015 was "to improve efficiency and organizational culture" and within this goal, James’ team resolved to prevent maternal death in 2015 and ensure every woman walks home after giving birth. Goal setting at the facility level is the key way to reduce maternal mortality. “I learned this during my Ford IFP training at Tulane. When local health teams make inputs into the goals being set, they own the process and will ensure attaining those goals. It was as if everyone was saying ‘we are in this together.’ I remember in some occasions I could be called about six times in the night, and although I felt weak and my body unwilling, I remembered the promise we had made collectively. And as the leader of the team, I did not want to be the loose link. As a leader for this facility, I owe a lot to the Ford International Fellowship program.”  

The Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP) was a decade-long program that offered advanced study opportunities to more than 4,300 social justice leaders from the world’s most vulnerable populations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia. The program, generously funded by the Ford Foundation, was administered through IIE during its decade of operation. In July 2013, IIE began implementing a 10-year IFP Alumni Tracking Study, a rare opportunity to explore the personal and professional trajectories of IFP alumni with an emphasis on social justice impacts.