Strengthening capacity in hospitals to reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality through a codesigned intervention package: protocol for a realist evaluation as part of a stepped-wedge trial of the Action Leveraging Evidence to Reduce perinatal morTality and morbidity (ALERT) in sub-Saharan Africa project

Ibukun-Oluwa Omolade Abejirinde, Virginia Castellano Pleguezuelo, Lenka Benova, Jean-Paul Dossou, Claudia Hanson, Christelle Boyi Metogni, Samuel Meja, D A Mkoka, Gertrude Namazzi, Kristi Sidney, Bruno Marchal, Thérèse Delvaux

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article


INTRODUCTION: Despite a strong evidence base for developing interventions to reduce child mortality and morbidity related to pregnancy and delivery, major knowledge-implementation gaps remain. The Action Leveraging Evidence to Reduce perinatal morTality and morbidity (ALERT) in sub-Saharan Africa project aims to overcome these gaps through strengthening the capacity of multidisciplinary teams that provide maternity care. The intervention includes competency-based midwife training, community engagement for study design, mentoring and quality improvement cycles. The realist process evaluation of ALERT aims at identifying and testing the causal pathway through which the intervention achieves its impact.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This realist process evaluation complements the effectiveness evaluation and the economic evaluation of the ALERT intervention. Following the realist evaluation cycle, we will first elicit the initial programme theory on the basis of the ALERT theory of change, a review of the evidence on adoption and diffusion of innovations and the perspectives of the stakeholders. Second, we will use a multiple embedded case study design to empirically test the initial programme theory in two hospitals in each of the four intervention countries. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected, using in-depth interviews with hospital staff and mothers, observations, patient exit interviews and (hospital) document reviews. Analysis will be guided by the Intervention-Actors-Context-Mechanism-Outcome configuration heuristic. We will use thematic coding to analyse the qualitative data. The quantitative data will be analysed descriptively and integrated in the analysis using a retroductive approach. Each case study will end with a refined programme theory (in-case analysis). Third, we will carry out a cross-case comparison within and between the four countries. Comparison between study countries should enable identifying relevant context factors that influence effectiveness and implementation, leading to a mid-range theory that may inform the scaling up the intervention.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: In developing this protocol, we paid specific attention to cultural sensitivity, the do no harm principle, confidentiality and non-attribution. We received ethical approval from the local and national institutional review boards in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Benin, Sweden and Belgium. Written or verbal consent of respondents will be secured after explaining the purpose, potential benefits and potential harms of the study using an information sheet. The results will be disseminated through workshops with the hospital staff and national policymakers, and scientific publications and conferences.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere057414
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Child
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services
  • Morbidity
  • Perinatal Death/prevention & control
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Tanzania
  • realist evaluation

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