New Report by the World Health Organization and Partners Calls Attention to Quality of Maternal Health Care

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By: Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

A new joint report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank explores how low quality care compromises health outcomes around the world—especially in low- and middle income countries (LMICs). According to the report, 10% of hospitalized patients in LMICs can expect to develop an infection from a hospital stay compared to an estimated 7% in high-income areas.

A spotlight on maternal health

Access to care alone is not enough to improve maternal health outcomes. The report cites research from eight high-mortality countries—Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda—which found that just 28% of antenatal care, 26% of family planning services and 21% of sick-child care qualified as ‘effective.’

According to the authors,

“Poor quality of care is responsible for persistently high levels of maternal and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries, despite substantial increases in access to essential health services achieved during the Millennium Development Goal era.”

A call to action

Governments, health systems, citizens, patients and health workers all have a role to play in ensuring high quality health services. The following is a sample of the high-level actions needed for quality in health care as outlined in the report:

All governments should:

  • Have a national quality policy and strategy;
  • Demonstrate accountability for delivering a safe high-quality service;
  • Ensure that reforms driven by the goal of universal health coverage build quality into the foundation of their care systems

All health systems should:

  • Implement evidence-based interventions that demonstrate improvement;
  • Benchmark against similar systems that are delivering best performance;
  • Ensure that all people with chronic disease are enabled to minimize its impact on the quality of their lives

All citizens and patients should:

  • Be empowered to actively engage in care to optimize their health status;
  • Play a leading role in the design of new models of care to meet the needs of the local community;
  • Be informed that it is their right to have access to care that meets

All health workers should:

  • Participate in quality measurement and improvement with their patients;
  • Embrace a practice philosophy of teamwork;
  • See patients as partners in the delivery of care

Access the report | Delivering quality health services: A global imperative for universal health coverage

Read the news release>>

Learn more about quality of maternal health care>>