Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Expert meeting to discuss indicators for quality of maternal health care

14 - 15 December 2010
Geneva, Switzerland

Recent estimates show a decrease in maternal deaths worldwide and lower maternal mortality ratios in many developing countries. However, measuring improvements in maternal health or even changes in the numbers of maternal deaths with precision is challenging. Vital registration systems in high-mortality settings tend to be incomplete. Surveys are infrequent and often of low accuracy, and therefore not useful to document anything but very large changes.

Monitoring progress in maternal mortality reduction relies on reproductive health indicators, including proportion of births attended by a skilled health worker (SAB), and antenatal care coverage. However, these indicators provide only limited information.

For example, SAB use does not provide information on the skills of the health worker, nor what they actually did during births (i.e. content and quality of care). The proportion of pregnant women receiving at least one antenatal care visit tells us that a contact occurred, but it does not provide information about what was done during the visit.

Thus, on their own, these indicators are insufficient measures of the overall progress in maternal health. It is important to have more information regarding the extent to which effective interventions are implemented, and to measure impact more closely.

WHO will convene a two-day working group meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from 14-15 December to discuss these issues further. Participants will review available indicators on quality of care including content and delivery of life-saving interventions, determine potential criteria for benchmark indicators and indicators for programme monitoring, and identify and prioritize necessary work for definition and standard measurement of candidate indicators.