Solutions Journalism for Maternal Health Reporting

Nigeria’s estimated 58,000 maternal deaths account for a staggering 19% of the world’s annual total — a statistic from a country that represents just 2.6% of the world’s population. Mobile blood banks, free health care for mothers and newborns in some Nigerian states, and community health care centers in underserved regions have led to noticeable reductions in maternal deaths.

Details of these health interventions are being documented and aggregated into a database by researchers Ashley Okwuosa and Chuma Asuzu for the Maternal Figures project, with funding from the Brown Institute’s Magic Grant. 

On Wednesday, Okwuosa held a webinar in collaboration with the Solutions Journalism Network, providing an overview of ‘solutions journalism’ as a reporting strategy, outlining its application to Maternal Health reporting in Nigeria, and offering their support to journalists in Nigeria and around the world who are working on related coverage of maternal health figures. 

The group has found three main challenges that journalists face when reporting on maternal health. These are “access to public health data, funding for reporting, and lack of proper training,” according to Okwousa. They hope that the database will be a direct response to these concerns.

Their team is currently in the process of fact-checking and examining the growing database of maternal health interventions. They’ve documented somewhere on the order of two hundred interventions in this database so far, each categorized as one of Culture, Policy, Research, or Technology, according to the diverse range of approaches to this problem. For instance, Abiye, or the Safe Motherhood Project, is a government initiative that starts with providing information to expectant mothers about how to reach health care facilities and providers.

Okwuosa likened solutions journalism, defined as “rigorous reporting on responses to social problems”, to a mechanic’s approach to examining the engine of a car. Like the mechanic, journalists need to “show how the thing works” in order to explain what’s broken. According to Okwousa, headlines like “Maternal death rate in Nigeria may be worse than we imagined” and “Maternal mortality in Northern Nigeria still at an alarming rate” only tell half the story by focusing only on what’s wrong. She walked through a few case studies of solutions journalism in practice, including the article A Sip of Morphine. Successful stories about health interventions, she says, come from asking about how interventions work and looking for “evidence of impact”.  Also, ask “what metrics matter most when measuring success?” 

Okwuosa’s team is soliciting pitches in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch and looking to work with journalists who are working on maternal health-related stories for their own publications. Anyone interested can email

Full recording of last Wednesday’s webinar