Press Release: Birhan field site disseminates first round of key MNCH indicators and research findings at the Ministry of Health Annual Review Meeting

Press Release: Birhan field site disseminates first round of key MNCH indicators and research findings at the Ministry of Health Annual Review Meeting

“Research for sustainable, cost-effective health interventions and resources for strengthening research infrastructure and public health intervention capabilities in low- and lower-middle income countries like Ethiopia are limited” Hon. Minister Lia Tadesse, Lancet. 

November 2, 2023

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


In response to the need for strengthening capacities in research infrastructure and public health interventions in low- and lower-middle income countries, the Birhan (“light” in Amharic) field site was established in 2018 to focus on the surveillance of maternal and child morbidity and mortality to improve disease estimates, study the etiological causes of disease, and strengthen research infrastructure to design, test, and scale interventions with potential for greatest impact. Based in Amhara Region, the site includes an 80,000 person catchment area with house to house surveillance of health and demographic indicators, including early pregnancy surveillance.  Nested in the site is an open pregnancy and birth cohort that enrolls approximately 2,000 pregnant women and their newborns per year with rigorous longitudinal follow-up over the first two years of life and household data linked with health facility information. Birhan has served as a platform for capacity building in research and training. 

Birhan was founded with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) in collaboration with HaSET, a research organization bringing together world-leading institutions such as Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC), Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), and Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (BCH/HMS) for research infrastructure and intervention capacity building. 

On November 2, 2023, results from the Birhan field site were presented at the Ministry of Health’s Annual Review Meeting bringing together stakeholders, partners and collaborators from federal and regional health offices, academic institutions, international and local organizations, and experts in the field. The event was well-attended by over 50 participants from across the collaborating institutions and leading maternal and child health. The event was held at the Haile Grand Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with keynote speeches, presentation, and discussion:

  • Dr. Sisay Sirgu, Provost of SPHMMC keynote: “Ethiopia has made significant progress in reducing maternal and child mortality rates over the past few decades under the direction of the Ministry of Health. Multiple stakeholders contributed to achieving these developments. The Birhan field site has generated evidence for priority maternal and child health programs and policies. We are excited for the continued collaboration to advance the health of mothers and children.”
  • Prof. Afework Kasshu, Director General of Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI): “Close collaborations with academia, government and research institutions, industry and community are key to bring sustainability and impact. Birhan highlights the success in supporting local institutions to identify national priorities and translating research to policy. Rigorous research methods and high-quality data resulting from this work are valuable for the country. Lessons learned can be shared with health and demographic surveillance sites  and other relevant actors within the country and beyond.” 
  • Dr. Bezawit Hunegnaw, Research Manager HaSET: “The Birhan field site has improved our understanding of health outcomes of mothers and children through generation of accurate estimates of under-five child, infant, neonatal morbidity and mortality, estimate of stillbirth data in the country using longitudinal study designs with near complete denominators. The site has generated key maternal, neonatal, and child health indicators for the Ministry of Health that can be used to triangulate with health management information systems and evaluate trends and interventions.”
  • Prof. Delayehu Bekele, SPHMMC Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Maternal Fetal Medicine: “Research priorities and approaches are identified by key stakeholders including community members, MoH, professional societies. We strive to build from the ground up learning from local communities what works and what doesn’t? Our success is rooted in trust-based relationships with the Ministry of Health and senior policymakers and community members. We have maximized the use of data for evidence and policy making.”
  • Prof. Grace Chan, HSPH, BCH/HMS Pediatrics and Epidemiology: “Our methods, including SOPs, questionnaires, and the rich datasets generated are shared in the EPHI NDMC repository with the incredible opportunity to answer research questions of interest. We are excited to continue and strengthen collaborations with MoH, EPHI, AHRI, academic institutions and implementing partners in research and innovation by supporting ongoing research efforts, use of data for policies responsive to population needs and disease burden, and capacity building.”

Press contact:


Birhan presentation

Birhan abstracts

MNCH key indicator report

Event images:


Dr. Sisay Sirgu keynote


Prof. Grace Chan presenting keynote 


Prof. Delayehu Bekele presenting Birhan overview


Dr. Beza Hunegnaw presenting Birhan results


Dr. Lisanu Taddesse moderating session 


Professor Afework Kassu discussing Birhan findings


Principal Investigator: 

Grace Chan, MD, MPH, PhD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology

Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Attending Physician, Medical Critical Care, Boston Children’s Hospital 

Honorary Faculty, St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa Ethiopia



Our mission is to advance the health of mothers, newborns and children by generating high quality evidence, training researchers, and translating results to programs and policies. 

Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College

St Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College is a renowned medical institution with the one of the largest public hospitals in the country and growing medical college with over 3,000 faculty and staff directly governed by the Ministry of Health dedicated to training the next generation of health professionals in Ethiopia. St. Paul’s Hospital serves a catchment of 10 million with 700 inpatient beds, 1,200 emergency and outpatient visits daily, 10,000 deliveries per year and an additional 16 catchment health centers.

Ethiopian Public Health Institute

The Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) is the nation’s leading data-driven public health institute. EPHI improves health through research, information utilization and technology, effective public health emergency management,  laboratory systems, and training public health researchers and practitioners. It is the technical arm of the Ministry of Health.


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health produces knowledge through research, trains global leaders, and translates knowledge into evidence for public health decision making. 

Harvard Medical School

The Harvard Medical School nurtures a diverse, inclusive community dedicated to alleviating suffering and improving health and well-being for all through excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and scholarship, and service and leadership. With its vast reservoir of talent, extensive network of affiliates and commitment to problem solving, Harvard Medical School faculty members have improved human health by innovating in their roles as physicians, mentors, and scholars. HMS is uniquely positioned to steer education and research in directions that will benefit local, national and global communities.

Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, is dedicated to improving and advancing the health and well-being of children around the world through its life-changing work in clinical care, biomedical research, medical education, and community engagement. 


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The BMGF strives to create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. Working together with governments and nonprofits, BMGF contributes over $7B a year to fight the greatest inequities in the world so that every child, no matter where they are born or grow up, reaches their full potential. 

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