International seminar on healthcare improvements which could save the lives of mothers and newborns

The quality of care at birth received by mothers and newborns in India, will come under the spotlight at a key international seminar in New Delhi on Monday (September 6).

India has the largest number of maternal deaths of any country1, accounting for approximately 20% of the total number of maternal deaths each year globally.

Seventy national and world experts in maternal and newborn heath - from international organisations including the Government of India, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund, the UK Department for International Development, USAID and Save the Children - will gather to discuss the evolution of quality improvement in the Indian health system and options for addressing the quality gap at the time of childbirth.

The seminar is hosted jointly by Immpact, the University of Aberdeen’s global research initiative for strengthening the evidence base to improve the health of women and babies, and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a world-renowned centre of excellence.

Research evidence on a range of quality improvement interventions to be discussed at the one day event include clean birth kits to tackle the risk of infection following birth, and the provision of essential equipment and of skilled and motivated staff in healthcare facilities.

Professor Wendy Graham, principal scientist for Immpact said: “Maternal and newborn mortality rates remain a major concern in India and for the world. Given the high rates and its very large population, the progress that India makes in tackling such mortality makes a huge difference to the global picture.

“Although still more than half of all births2 in India take place at home and without skilled attendants, the proportion delivering in health facilities has increased considerably over the last five years owing to significant effort by the Government.

“However, such rapid increases often bring their own problems since the supply of good quality care is unable to keep pace with the extra demand. One of the most serious consequences is deterioration in the standard of care mothers and babies receive, and as a consequence, the benefits of delivering in facilities are not reaped and indeed lives that could be saved are lost.

“There is clear recognition in India of the urgency of addressing this problem. This seminar will throw further light on the issue and on the evidence from research to inform action.”

Rajmohan Panda, Public Health Specialist in reproductive and child health, Public Health Foundation of India said: “An estimated 80,000 mothers die each year across India from preventable causes. While efforts through the National Rural Health Mission have been noteworthy in addressing infrastructure and manpower issues, there still remains a huge gap in the provision of good quality healthcare for mothers and newborns.  

“In many Empowered Action Group states in India the First Referral hospitals which are meant to handle complicated deliveries and provide newborn care are severely short-staffed and have a long way to go before they are fully operational to be able to  handle the increased numbers that the Janani Suraksha Yojana dividend has brought about. 

“With incentives moving deliveries into institutions, patient expectations are very low.  Thus there is a grave danger of benchmarks for quality care being fixed at low standards as there is poor demand. Issues like patient privacy, proper counselling and appropriate provider behaviour which have long been neglected in health institutions now need to be integrated as part of the quality of care guidelines.

“The seminar will deliberate on these issues by examining the evolution of quality of care in India”

Sharing the Evidence: A Seminar on Quality Care for Mothers and Newborns will take place on Monday September 6 in the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Professor Wendy Graham also spoke at the Global Maternal Health Conference 2010 in New Dehli last Monday (August 30). As part of a session on global progress on maternal health, Professor Graham gave a lecture entitled: The geography of progress.

For more information on Immpact visit:

For more information on the Public Health Foundation of India visit:

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