The PRECISE Network is a new and broadly-based group of research scientists and health advocates mainly based in the UK and Africa, but also including the World Health Organization. With core funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) we are establishing this network through a shared project that will investigate three important complications of pregnancy, namely high blood pressure (hypertension), babies who are smaller than they should be before birth (fetal growth restriction) and babies who die before birth (stillbirth).
We estimate that about 46,000 women and two-and-a-half million babies (both before and after birth) die due to these problems every year, and half of them die in Africa. In addition, about 50 million women and babies will have their short and long-term health altered because of these complications. These numbers represent one of the great global inequalities of our time.
In more-developed countries like the UK, we know that these three pregnancy complications are caused by problems with the afterbirth (placenta), and we know quite a lot about how they develop and complicate pregnancies. In contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, we know very little about how and why these placental conditions occur. This is especially complex as women in Africa often have many other challenges: limited diets that change with the seasons, chronic infections such as HIV or malaria, acute infections like Ebola, limited autonomy of decision-making, and life in communities that are prone to either flooding or drought and are remote from health facilities.
Therefore, the pathways to pregnancy complications are probably very different for these women in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with women living in the UK. Yet, these women and their babies bear most of the burden of death and illness related to pregnancy complications. PRECISE is designed to address this area of neglected global health research.