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Blog Posts Discuss World Prematurity Day

November 17 marked the second annual World Prematurity Day, sponsored by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published two posts discussing premature birth.

Indonesia Must Work To Empower Women In Order To Improve Maternal Health Standards

Though Indonesia is “widely seen as a development success story — indeed, it is sometimes referred to as one of Asia’s ‘rising powers’ … in the area of maternal health, the successes have been modest and much remains to be done,” Andrew Rosser, associate director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, writes in an Inside Indonesia opinion piece. “Indonesia is on track to meet many of these goals,” including those related to poverty, child nutrition and mortality, education, and tuberculosis and malaria, “[b]ut it is well off track when it comes to goals related to maternal health,” he states. The country also is “failing to meet its targets on the use of modern methods of contraception and reducing the ‘unmet need’ for family planning — that is, the proportion of couples who want to limit the number of children they have but do not have access to contraception,” Rosser notes.

IPS Examines Efforts To Reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio In Laos

Inter Press Service examines efforts Laos is taking to improve its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 470 deaths per 100,000 live births, especially among rural populations that do not have access to health care services. “A majority of the country’s 6.5 million people live in rural communities scattered across this mountainous Southeast Asian nation, and over 80 percent of the women give birth at home, according to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” the news service writes. “June saw 80 midwives graduate from a special program shaped by the ministry of health, international donors and the UNFPA, … add[ing] to the initial group of 140 midwives who qualified last year,” IPS notes. The news service continues, “And as the community midwives program forges ahead, focus is shifting to more professional care in isolated communities in the mountainous areas and rural lowlands,” with the goal of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 (Macan-Markar, 7/31).

Namibian High Court Rules HIV-Positive Women Were Improperly Counseled Before Sterilization Procedures, But Not Based On HIV Status

“The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilization amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status,” PlusNews reports (7/30). “The court ruled the three were sterilized without being adequately informed,” Reuters notes. “There should be unhurried counseling in a language that is clearly understood by the patient,” Windhoek High Court Judge Elton Hoff said, adding, “I am not convinced that informed consent was given,” the news service reports (7/30).

Kenyan Government Must Review Law On Counterfeit Drugs, High Court Rules

“Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine,” Reuters reports. In 2009, three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit arguing that the definition of counterfeit drugs in Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was too broad and “unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine,” the news agency notes (4/20).

Facilitating Low-Cost Innovations In, Increased Usage Of Health Care

The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.

Health Worker Training Program In Tanzania's Kigoma Region Reducing Maternal Mortality Rate

Inter Press Service reports on the successful efforts of Tanzania’s Kigoma Region “to train assistant medical officers to conduct life-saving c-sections at its rural health centers,” allowing pregnant women with complications to deliver at more local facilities instead of having to travel to regional or district hospitals. Tanzania’s maternal mortality rate is high, at 578 deaths for every 100,000 live births, IPS notes. “[A]t one point the Kigoma Region had the highest rate in the country, at 933 per 100,000 live births in the early 1980s,” but “maternal mortality in this region [now] is considered to be lower than in the rest of the country,” according to the news service.

Fear Of Stigma Prevents Pregnant Women From Seeking Prenatal Care, Studies Show

Though many pregnant women are aware that treatment could save their lives and the lives of their infants if they test HIV-positive during prenatal care, a new study and literature review have found that a “[f]ear of being stigmatized as an AIDS patient is still a major barrier to good medical care for pregnant young women in many countries,” the New York Times reports. The study, published last week in PLoS Medicine, was “based on a survey of 1,777 women in rural Nyanza Province in Kenya,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “Only 44 percent of mothers in the province delivered in clinics, and the study found that a major obstacle was that they feared HIV tests.” The study’s author, Janet Turan, a professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in July also published “a review of multiple studies in many countries” that documented multiple accounts of “stigmatizing behavior,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 8/27).

Central African Republic Town Struggling To Provide Health Care Since Withdrawal Of Foreign Companies, VOA Reports

VOA News examines how the 2009 withdrawal of foreign diamond-mining companies from the small town of Carnot in the Central African Republic (CAR) affected the local economy and access to health care for residents. Initially, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) “ran emergency nutrition programs for the first year, but then discovered deeper health problems in the region, including a child mortality rate that is three times above what is considered an emergency level, as well as elevated rates of HIV and tuberculosis,” the news service writes.

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