Maternal Health Task Force

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Achieving Better Outcomes With Maternal and Newborn Integration

By: Ana Langer, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force and Women and Health Initiative; Joy Riggs-Perla, Director, Saving Newborn Lives at Save the Children

This post is part of the Maternal and Newborn Integration Blog Series,which shares themes of and reactions to the “Integration of Maternal and Newborn Health: In Pursuit of Quality” technical meeting.

“Students often ask me, how come a neonatologist is working on maternal health? To me the response is obvious. When I was a clinician, most of my interactions were with the mothers. I learned very soon that for the newborn to be healthy the woman needed to be healthy.”

– Ana Langer, Maternal Health Task Force

When thinking about the term integration for maternal and newborn health care we need to keep our focus with the intended outcome. Our attention should be on providing equitable, high-quality care for both the mother and the newborn.

Elvira and Ana Cristina hold their premature babies at the hospital in Petrolina, Brazil. At the hospital they have been taught about the importance of eclusive breastfeeding and how to practice Kangaroo Mother Care with their newborn babies. Photo: Genna Naccache/Save the Children

At a hospital in Petrolina, Brazil, new mothers Elvira and Ana Cristina have been taught the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and how to practice Kangaroo Mother Care with their newborn premature babies. Photo: Genna Naccache/Save the Children

Integration of Maternal & Newborn Health Care”—the recent technical meeting hosted by the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program (SNL)—provided the jumping off point for discussing what integration really means, the current knowledge base, promising approaches, and models and tools that exist to move this agenda forward. We believe that, with the global consensus on the importance of the continuum of care approach, we have a unique opportunity to decrease the gaps in care and find actionable and practical ways to foster integration where appropriate.

There were two days of in-depth discussion by more than 50 participants who came from around the world to dive deep into analyzing the challenges of, and opportunities for, integration. This group represented academics, NGOs, governments, multilateral organizations and more from global and national organizations. Country perspectives from Ecuador, Nigeria, Nepal, Mozambique and many others were discussed by the presenters, panelists and audience and gave us a better sense of the power of context and localized solutions to gaps in care. We strongly believe that to bring about meaningful and equitable integration, it is essential to understand and take into consideration the epidemiological and health systems’ realities and specific social contexts of countries and communities.

Meeting participants discuss the challenges to and opportunities for increased maternal and newborn health integration and service delivery at the local, national and global level. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children

Meeting participants discuss the challenges to and opportunities for increased maternal and newborn health integration and service delivery at the local, national and global level. Photo: Ian P. Hurley/Save the Children

Perhaps the most critical component of the meeting was to develop a list of actions that the maternal and newborn health communities can take to ensure greater programmatic coherence and effectiveness. Among critical actions, participants saw team-based quality improvement processes, co-location of services, functional referral systems, and simplified and unified maternal and newborn health (MNH) data collection and use, as important steps that countries could take to more effectively deliver quality and equitable care for women and newborns. The group also called for donors and technical cooperation partners to support MNH integration-oriented implementation research to build convincing evidence for policymakers and to align their investments and technical support with national strategies, taking a country-centric approach. The final action item list included well over 60 steps. The just released final report delves deeper into what these are.

The SNL program and the MHTF are committed to the pursuit of quality and equity in maternal and newborn care, and seek to increase collaboration in the delivery of integrated approaches of care. The rich and honest discussion that took place among those gathered in Boston is only a beginning. We hope you will join us in this ongoing effort to find ways to most effectively provide services to mothers and their families. In the end, we must keep the patients at the center and work to achieve better outcomes for them.

This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network Blog.

Categories: Cross-post MNH Integration Series

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