Quality Obstetric Care and the Lessons That Can Be Learned From the HIV/AIDS Experience

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By: Leilani Hastings, Conference Coordinator, Maternal Health Task Force, Women and Health Initiative

Last week, BMC International Health and Human Rights published an article by Hammonds and Ooms entitled, “The emergence of a global right to health norm – the unresolved care of universal access to quality emergency obstetric care.

They researched peer-reviewed articles and conducted interviews with key informants involved in the maternal, sexual and reproductive health communities, and found that the movement of maternal health as a priority has only seen gains in the most recent two decades, especially in relation to its involvement in the MDGs, and that in order to become a larger movement, the message of the field needs to be modified.

Hammonds and Ooms found that fractured but intertwining agendas—such as sexual and reproductive health, maternal mortality reduction, family planning, emergency obstetric care (EmOC) and skilled attendants at birth—have caused problems in uniting the movement. Also fractured were the movements for different medical interventions, with EmOC failing to gain the attention that skilled attendants and contraceptives commanded.

The authors compared the maternal health case to the HIV/AIDS experience, showing how it also had multiple branches with different agendas that each deserved a voice at the podium. The authors described three levels that the maternal health field needs to improve:

  1. maternal mortality is a health right that needs to be respected and addressed by all (including policy makers);
  2. the field needs to offer a more all-encompassing approach to include multiple facets of shared policies and program;
  3. and finally funding needs to be demanded from key players and used with appropriate accountability and oversight.