This post is part of the Maternal and Newborn Health Integration Blog Series, “Integration of Maternal and Newborn Health: In Pursuit of Quality” technical meeting.
The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the revitalizedinterest in integration of maternal and newborn health care as integration is the key to success for both improving maternal health and for ending preventable newborn deaths.
This is the very reason why WHO, together with UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, have been promoting, already since 2000, Integrated Management of Pregnancy and Childbirth (IMPAC). This is the package of guidelines and tools, which respond to key areas of maternal and perinatal health programmes. IMPAC sets standards for integrated maternal and neonatal care. However, integration is not an end in itself, but should serve the purpose of improving quality and efficiency of health care services provided.
One important element of integration of health care services is that they should be centred around the mother-baby dyad, their needs and preferences. It is important that health care services are organized in a way that this will happen. For a normal pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal period this care can and should be provided by midwifery personnel with the necessary skills. Sometimes, however, the mother or the baby needs special attention and services that can only be provided by health care workers with specialized skills. But even in those cases, addressing the needs of the mother and the baby in an integrated way, remains key for success.
For example, early and exclusive breastfeeding is important for the survival, growth and development of the baby and should not be disrupted by separating the baby from her mother, if this is feasible – and in most cases this is feasible. So-called vertical health programmes, such as the expended programme of immunization (EPI) or the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT), have been successful in addressing certain public health priorities as they provide the necessary focus to make things happen. Sometimes they are perceived as disruptive. However, there are good examples how these programme interventions can be successfully integrated into maternal and newborn care services. Again, IMPAC provides guidance on how best to achieve this integration.
Finally, it will be important to promote a truly perinatal approach, which goes beyond highly specialized health care settings, but which will be based on the principles that only good pregnancy and childbirth care will lead to better neonatal outcomes. In conclusion, maternal and newborn health care should be as integrated as possible and as “vertical” as necessary to achieve high coverage and quality of health interventions for the mother and her baby. In the coming months WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and partners will be working on a Every Mother, Every Newborn initiative to improve the quality of integrated maternal and newborn care.
This post originally appeared on The Healthy Newborn Network Blog