Prof Robert Pattinson, Director of the South African Medical Research Council's Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Unit in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been awarded the Havenga Prize for Medicine by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. The Havenga Prize is awarded annually for original research in the field of natural sciences and/or in a technical field.
Prof Pattinson is one of the leaders in the field of perinatology (the branch of obstetrics that deals with the period around childbirth) in South Africa, and is closely involved with the establishment and management of various research projects in the country. The focus of the research conducted by Prof Pattinson and his team at the Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Unit is on identifying the core problems, developing effective solutions and determining successful ways of implementing these interventions to reduce deaths among pregnant women and their infants at both primary and secondary levels of care. One of the major outcomes of the team's work to date has been the development of clinical death review tools, namely the Perinatal Problem Identification Programme (PPIP) for babies and the Child Healthcare Problem Identification Programme (Child PIP) tool for infant and child deaths in South African hospitals.
The PPIP and the Child PIP enable local healthcare teams to understand the causes of child mortality in their area with a view to improving the quality of care. The systems allow for all deaths of babies and children to be identified and for important information, such as details on the child's health and the main cause or causes of death, to be collected and stored in a database. By identifying previously unseen patterns and ways in which healthcare processes can be changed, the tools can be used to help individual hospitals and the healthcare system as a whole to adapt and improve care for children. The PPIP is already being used by healthcare teams to cover three quarters of births in the public sector, and the Child PIP is implemented in more than half of all public hospitals in the country's nine provinces. In 2015, the Child PIP was unanimously selected as one of only four projects, from a pool of more than 100 submissions received from dozens of countries, to receive GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children's third annual US$1 million Healthcare Innovation Award. The award recognises high-quality healthcare innovations that can make a real difference for children under the age of five years. Prof Pattinson and his team hope to continue strengthening the programme and to extend it to collect information about deaths in communities in the near future.
Prof Pattinson has published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals and holds a B1-rating from the NRF. He sits on many local and international expert panels and committees, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Survey Steering Committee. He served as chairperson of the WHO's trial Data Management Committee for Active Management of the Third Stage of Labour from 2008 until 2011. In addition to the above, he also served on the steering committee for the series on stillbirths published by The Lancet in 2012, and was the lead author of one of the papers in the series.