MHTF’s Work in Respectful Maternity Care Featured in Cape Town Symposium on Health Systems Research

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By: Katie Millar, Technical Writer, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Next week the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF), along with other global experts, will gather in Cape Town at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. At the symposium, we, along with the USAID|Translating Research into Action (TRAction) Project, aim to strengthen the messages of maternal health, universal health coverage (UHC), and health systems presented at the symposium.

The MHTF is participating in a number of events, which are part of a large focus on respectful maternity care (RMC) and woman-centered care. To garner attention for woman-centered care as a driver for UHC, we invite you to attend our sessions.

Woman-centered Care as the Engine for Universal Health Coverage: Creating a Health Systems Research Framework” on September 30th, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Register here.

“Addressing Disrespect and Abuse During Childbirth: An Agenda for Women-Centered Care in the Context of Universal Health Coverage” on October 3rd, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 pm.

Also, in order to increase awareness and support for RMC and woman-centered care, we invite you to contribute a post to a blog series, the details of which can be found below.

The schedule for all symposium RMC events can be found here.

Why are we passionate about RMC and woman-centered care? Despite improvements, global indicators of women’s health, including maternal mortality and morbidity and family planning coverage, still remain unacceptably poor. These indicators reflect health systems that fail women. An equitable, respectful and gender-sensitive approach to health systems research is crucial to expand coverage and effectively deliver quality services for all.

The purpose of the session, “Woman-centered Care as the Engine for Universal Health Coverage: Creating a Health Systems Research Framework,” and MHTF’s involvement at the symposium, is to build consensus on the necessity of a woman-centered care approach to strengthen health systems and achieve UHC. Specifically, the session will develop a strategy to integrate measurement experiences related to maternal mortality surveillance, prevalence of disrespect and abuse during childbirth, promotion of reproductive rights (particularly surrounding HIV/AIDS and family planning), and policy advocacy for women’s health under the umbrella of woman-centered care. In addition, we’ll bridge the gap caused by many distinct, high-level planning and strategy meetings occurring without much overlap between participants or sharing of strategies and outcomes.

The RMC events hosted by the MHTF, TRAction, and other colleagues, along with the blog series, will achieve proposed objectives for woman-centered care and health systems by answering the following questions:

  1. What would a woman-centered care health systems research framework look like?
  2. What would targets and priorities be?
  3. Whose support is needed?
  4. What knowledge gaps must be filled to get there? (Measurement strategies, policy advocacy targets, dissemination strategies)
  5. How can strengths and efforts be combined to advance a woman-centered care agenda as imperative to UHC?
  6. How does woman-centered care tie these discussions of health systems research and UHC together?

We hope to see you in Cape Town and as a contributor to the blog series to discuss the important topic of woman-centered care as a driver for UHC. If you are joining us in Cape Town next week, make sure you register for this satellite session by tomorrow, Thursday, September 25th!

To contribute to the blog series, please contact Katie Millar,, and submit a post at your soonest convenience between September 24th and October 8th. The post can answers the questions above or provide a commentary on your experience with this topic. If your schedule does not permit drafting a blog post, someone from our communications team can quickly interview you during or after the symposium to gather your thoughts on woman-centered care. Guidelines for a blog post can be found below.

Also, make sure to follow us on twitter @MHTF and use and follow #EndDisrespect to join the conversation on RMC and disrespect and abuse. We look forward to furthering gender-sensitive approaches for woman-centered health systems with you.

General guidelines for guest blog posts:

  • Please include the author name, title, and photo (optional)
  • Goal: Guest posts should raise questions, discuss lessons learned, analyze programs, describe research, offer recommendations, share resources, or offer critical insight.
  • Audience: The audience for this series is health and development professionals working in maternal and newborn health around the world, primarily in resource-constrained settings
  • Tone: Conversational. Doesn’t need to meet professional publication standards
  • Feel free to choose your own style or approach. Q/A as well as lists (eg. top ten lessons) can often be effective ways of organizing blog posts.
  • Length: 400-600 words
  • No institutional promotion, please
  • Please include links to sources such as websites and/or publications
  • May also include photos andvideos; please include a caption and a credit for the photo