Issue date: 05 December 2003

ISSUE DATE: 05/12/03

Two medical doctors from Mongolia are spending nine months at the University of the West/of England (UWE) working on data from a large-scale study into infant diseases and deaths in their country.

UWE’s Faculty of Health and Social Care is providing PhD courses for four Mongolian students in all, with two more arriving next year. They will all be working on data collected from a large-scale infant morbidity study in Mongolia, directed by the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The doctors - Narangerel Gombojav (known as Nara) and Yagaantsetseg Jamsran (known as Yagaa) are both fro
m the capital city of Ulan Bator. Nara is a paediatrician studying respiratory physiology of infants, and Yagaa is an obstetrician investigating the incidence of post-natal depression.

Their main research project is based on data taken from a large survey of 1300 children in Ulan Bator whose health was monitored for seven months at clinics throughout the capital. Mortality among infants in Mongolia is high, with a rate of 38 in 1000 live births. Of these deaths, 55% are due to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia.

The main project aims to find out whether traditional methods such as swaddling are implicated in the respiratory diseases.

“Traditionally, swaddling is carried out until the age of around six months and some people report that they swaddle their children for convenience and to protect them from temperatures which can be as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter,” said Nara. “Newborns are swaddled from the neck downwards, and then as they begin to grow, the tight wrapping is gradually moved down the body allowing the arms to move. We are trying to discover if the practice has links with the high rate of respiratory illnesses and other health issues.”

Fashion may play a part in changing traditions, however, according to Yagaa, with parents starting to want to display their children in pretty clothes, especially in the summer.

Director of Studies Jon Pollock said the students were delighted to be offered opportunities to complete their research and studies at UWE.

“Another key objective of the project is to support research capacity building in Mongolia by assisting the students to gain research skills here. As part of their studies the students are also undertaking modules in other faculties such as advanced statistics courses in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Studies.”


Editor’s notes

1. The project is being directed by Dr Semira Manaseki-Holland of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is supported with funds from the Wellcome Trust.

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