Guest post by Jocalyn Clark, senior editor, PLOS Medicine.
This blog post is cross-posted on Speaking of Medicine.
Today in Arusha, more than 700 delegates from around the world gathered to begin three days of presentation, discussion, and calls to action on one of the most pressing yet under-appreciated aspects of maternal health: quality of health care.
The Vice-President of Tanzania, H.E. Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal, along with ministers of health from Tanzania and Rwanda and representatives of the conference organizers Maternal Health Task Force and Management and Development for Health, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, opened the proceedings with a plea for more focus on the quality of care provided to women and children.
Dr Ana Langer, director of the Maternal Health Task Force and of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health, and co-chair of the conference, said that recent improvements in coverage have resulted in better access to needed maternal health services but that these alone will not improve the health of women and children. Instead, the multi-facets of quality must be examined—these include whether care is safe, effective, equitable, women-centred, and culturally appropriate. She said quality of maternal health care is both “a global health and ethical imperative.”
Many of today’s plenary speakers emphasized that with the millennium developmental goals devoted to maternal health languishing (only 13 countries will have cut their maternal mortality rates by three-quarters by 2015, and still nearly 300,000 women die each year giving birth), we must all now focus more on quality of care not just whether women receive necessary health care.