Building Capacity for Women’s Health


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color photo of Ella August
Dr. Ella August
color photo of Ella August
Dr. Ella August

Veronica Dzomeku is a researcher, midwife and faculty member at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. She seeks to understand the high maternal mortality rate in Ghana by investigating factors that lead to a healthy and positive experience in childbirth. Although most Ghanaian women visit prenatal clinics, less than half deliver in a health facility. Because most fatal complications occur around the time of delivery, Dr. Dzomeku sought to uncover what prevents women from delivering at hospitals where health professionals are better equipped to handle emergencies.

Through her research, she discovered a disconnect between the priorities of the health care provider and that of the expectant mother. The providers tend to focus on the woman’s physiological health, while patient satisfaction appears to be more related to interpersonal interactions -- how she is spoken to and the caregiver’s bedside manner. Dr. Dzomeku hopes that explaining this disconnect will lead to better care and more women choosing to deliver in a health care setting.

This type of research on women’s health, conducted by researchers who live and work in the community, is often overlooked by academic peer-reviewed journals. More often than not, research conducted in the Global South is represented through publications by western scholars who have the training, access, and resources to submit papers to international scholarly journals.

In Fall 2017, Ella August, Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the U-M School of Public Health, launched a new IRWG program area called “Building Capacity for Women’s Health.” The goal was to increase the publication rate by researchers from low- and middle-income countries who work on women’s health and gender health disparities. Over the course of the 2017-18 academic year, Dr. August led training sessions for U-M graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to learn how to be effective peer reviewers. After completing their training, the students committed to providing follow-up peer review support to researchers in low- and middle-income countries who have undergone their own training on scientific writing and publishing. Since the program’s inception, 30 people have been trained and have joined the peer review team.

photo of students at peer reviewer training session

The peer reviewer training sessions are part of Dr. August’s larger project, Pre-Publication Support Service (PREPSS), which provides manuscript development and writing support to health researchers from around the globe. Peer reviewers work with authors to improve their manuscripts to be competitive submissions for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals. Additionally, PREPSS provides a range of services including on-site training, pre-writing data consultation, guidance on selecting a journal, multiple rounds of content and methods peer review, and copy editing.

“IRWG supported me in getting PREPSS off the ground from the very start. Conversations with Jocelyn Stitt (IRWG’s Program Director for Faculty Research Development) encouraged me in the early stages of planning,” says Dr. August. PREPSS also receives support from the Center for International Reproductive Health Training at the University of Michigan.

After peer review and copy editing by PREPSS, Dr. Dzomeku’s article, “What constitutes satisfactory facility-based childbirth care for women in Kumasi, Ghana?” was published in the April 2018 issue of the International Journal of Nursing and Midwifery.

“Discussions about reducing poverty and improving population health in resource-poor countries too often excludes the expertise and insights of local researchers,” explains Dr. August. By increasing the number and quality of publications, she hopes to increase visibility around local work on women’s health issues in order to meaningfully impact policies and programs on a regional and global scale.

Learn more at

If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with PREPSS or attend a peer reviewer training, contact Dr. August at

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