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Social Autopsy of maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths in rural Bangladesh: qualitative exploration of its effect and community acceptance
  1. Animesh Biswas1,2,
  2. Fazlur Rahman2,
  3. Charli Eriksson1,
  4. Abdul Halim2,
  5. Koustuv Dalal1
  1. 1Department of Public Health Science, School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
  2. 2Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  1. Correspondence to Dr Animesh Biswas; ani72001{at}


Objectives Social Autopsy (SA) is an innovative strategy where a trained facilitator leads community groups through a structured, standardised analysis of the physical, environmental, cultural and social factors contributing to a serious, non-fatal health event or death. The discussion stimulated by the formal process of SA determines the causes and suggests preventative measures that are appropriate and achievable in the community. Here we explored individual experiences of SA, including acceptance and participant learning, and its effect on rural communities in Bangladesh. The present study had explored the experiences gained while undertaking SA of maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths in rural Bangladesh.

Design Qualitative assessment of documents, observations, focus group discussions, group discussions and in-depth interviews by content and thematic analyses.

Results Each community's maternal and neonatal death was a unique, sad story. SA undertaken by government field-level health workers were well accepted by rural communities. SA had the capability to explore the social reasons behind the medical cause of the death without apportioning blame to any individual or group. SA was a useful instrument to raise awareness and encourage community responses to errors within the society that contributed to the death. People participating in SA showed commitment to future preventative measures and devised their own solutions for the future prevention of maternal and neonatal deaths.

Conclusions SA highlights societal errors and promotes discussion around maternal or newborn death. SA is an effective means to deliver important preventative messages and to sensitise the community to death issues. Importantly, the community itself is enabled to devise future strategies to avert future maternal and neonatal deaths in Bangladesh.

  • maternal death
  • neonatal death
  • social autopsy
  • Bangladesh

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