It is time to reposition the quality of health care received by women and children in low income countries at the centre of debates on universal health coverage and post 2015 development priorities, according to international maternal and child health experts writing in this week’s PLOS Medicine. Publication of the commentary is timed to coincide with the official international launch of year 1 of the Maternal Health Task-Force (MHTF)-PLOS Collection on Maternal Health, which will take place at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania on 15 January 2013.*
Wendy Graham from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Affette McCaw-Binns from the University of West Indies-Mona in Jamaica, and Stephen Munjanja from the University of Zimbabwe argue: “Improving and assuring the quality of care received by all women and children in low-income countries is crucial to achieving health, equity, and human rights goals. ” The authors emphasize the three key requirements for care to be regarded as quality care- clinically effective, safe and a good experience for the patient.
They continue: “Although inadequacies in care have long been noted across the world and for many health problems, a focus on the magnitude, costs, and consequences specifically for women and children in low-income countries is relatively new, and still has not achieved the status of a political priority. This contrasts markedly with the attention paid to the coverage of care.”
According to the authors, ‘Effective coverage” should be the new narrative in these debates, meaning high and equitable coverage of quality care.
The authors say: “This repositioning requires a fundamental shift in policy and programme mindsets to accept quality care as essential to protecting lives, well-being, and scarce health resources.”
The authors conclude: “Seizing the quality care opportunity will also benefit the wider health system, care providers, and other population groups.”
* This Perspective was commissioned to reflect on the quality of maternal health care, the theme of Year 1 of the Maternal Health Task Force-PLOS Collection on maternal health. The Year 1 Collection contains 18 new, outstanding research and commentary articles from a wide range of settings and authors in developed and developing countries, providing needed evidence to improve the quality of maternal health care worldwide. More information and the full list of articles can be found at the Collection page: http://www.ploscollections.org/maternalhealth. Information about the Global Maternal Health Conference 2013 is here.
Funding: No specific funding was received for writing this article.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
“Translating Coverage Gains into Health Gains for All Women and Children: The Quality Care Opportunity”, Graham WJ, McCaw-Binns A, Munjanja S (2013)
PLoS Med10(1): e1001368. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001368