As Day 1 of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference comes to a close, we turn our attention to quality. How can we advance the quality of maternal and newborn health care, and how can we do so at the scale and pace required? To begin to answer these questions, Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of The Lancet, asked panelists to define what ‘quality’ means to them.

Quality is degree of excellence…quality has to be an everyday affair, so excellence has to become habit. – Vinod Paul, Head of the Department of Pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences

Quality is making sure that our women have access to care that is both acceptable and available. – Address Malata, Vice President of the International Confederation of Midwives

Reliability and timeliness of care are critical when it comes to quality. – Harshad Sanghvi, JHPIEGO

Respectful, acceptable, safe, effective, in other words satisfactory care for women –Fernando Althabe, Institute for CLinical Effectiveness and Health Policy

To ensure these definitions of quality can be adopted at community level and adapted to country-specific needs, it is essential that we invest in resources. Infrastructure, transport and data each have an essential role to play, but it is human resources which are most valuable of all. As part of our efforts to advance the quality of care available to women and newborns worldwide, we are encouraging more and more women to come to health centers and visit hospitals. Can we ensure we can provide skilled and knowledgeable professionals to care for them if and when they do?

Take, for example, emotional support structures for women and families such as counseling. These are the services which demand the most time and effort and energy, as well as the services that often disappear first as demands on human resources build.

The view on today’s panel was unanimous; midwives are our most precious resource for advancing quality of care at scale for women and newborns. The education and training of midwives has a direct result on the quality of care that follows, and so they should be thoroughly invested in by governments. Truly effective midwives, Address Malata told us, are people-focused, as quality care relies on far more than medication: “Women want to be greeted, they want to know what is happening to them, women must feel welcome in our facilities.”

Harshad Sangvi shared one success story from Afghanistan, a country which has made huge efforts over recent years to improve the quality of training for their midwives. At the end of 18 months of intensive training, new graduates are empowered and equipped with the knowledge they need to care for women and their babies efficiently, both from a scientific and a humanitarian standpoint. This efficiency, Harshad believes, deserves to be replicated; training programmes should be producing highly capable, highly compassionate individuals immediately upon graduation.

By investing in education and training of midwives, we are investing in a people-centered approach to maternal newborn care. By developing a model of care that focuses on respect and compassion, alongside scientific knowledge and medical expertise, we can advance the quality of care available to women and newborns worldwide.

Today we asked individuals and organizational leaders the question:

How is your organization working to improve the quality of care of mothers and babies? Here is what a few of them had to say:


Cynthia, Kenya, World Vision


Daniel Tobon Garcia, Columbia, Youth Coalition


Watch the full plenary session here!

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Cover Photo Credit: Miguel Sanchez/Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference

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  1. Dear my scientifics friends
    La qualité des prestations en santé de reproduction dépend de soins de qualité mais surtout de la situation économique et financière de la communauté. Car est très déterminant dans l’accès aux services de santé par la prise de décision à temps (pour éviter le 1er retard), la réhabilitation des voies d’accès aux formations sanitaires par l’engagement de la communauté(2ème retard résolu) et enfin respecter les prescriptions à temps pour contribuer à réduire le 3ème retard.
    Merci infiniment pour le travail abattu.
    Jacqueline A

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