Maternal & neonatal health beyond 2015








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The Institute of Tropical Medicine organizes its 2015 annual colloquium in partnership with the Moroccan École Nationale de Santé Publique (ENSP). The conference on maternal and neonatal health in low- and middle-income countries will take place from 24 to 27 November in Rabat, Morocco. Researchers from across the world will present new research, share experiences and discuss lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire in 2015.

Since 1990, world-wide maternal mortality has been reduced by 47% and child mortality by 49%. However, the MDGs aimed at reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds (MDG4) and maternal mortality by three-quarters, while achieving universal access to reproductive health (MDG5), have not been reached.

The Colloquium will make recommendations on how maternal health can be improved in an integrated post-2015 development framework. It will explore how we can work towards a vision of a healthy life for all, beyond reductions in mortality, in line with the UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

The 57th Colloquium will focus on three areas:

  1. Respectful childbirth

  2. Maternal morbidity and its consequences on newborn’s and women’s health

  3. Maternal mortality surveillance

These areas have been selected because of their major importance for the SDGs. The growing epidemic of unnecessary caesarean sections and over-medicalisation of childbirth calls for a renewed focus on women’s rights, trust in health care providers and safe deliveries in conducive environments. The coverage of attended deliveries has been used as indicator for MDG 5 and substantial efforts have been made to reduce maternal mortality. In a few countries, maternal death surveillance systems are being put in place. While their cost-effectiveness is still disputed, the continuous decrease of maternal mortality shifted the focus to maternal morbidity and its consequences for the future health of mothers and children.

The scientific programme of the colloquium will further highlight several cross-cutting themes that are relevant to the three main areas and their impact on maternal and child health policies.

In principle, each sub-session will start with a keynote presentation addressing a specific topic, followed by debate. The speakers will present results achieved through implementation research, share best practices and identify knowledge gaps.

  1. Respectful childbirth

    In many health facilities worldwide, disrespectful childbirth practices violate women’s rights and power to make their own health decisions. This neglect leads to unnecessary medical or surgical interventions and discourage women from seeking maternal health care. This session will address the causes and consequences of disrespectful practices during childbirth and will present experiences aiming at professional behaviour change.

    The objective is to identify innovative strategies to promote respectful and effective childbirth by committed and capable staff with the involvement of the community, so as to attract more parturients to health facilities and to decreasing unnecessary medical or surgical interventions.

  2. Maternal morbidity and its consequences on neonatal and women’s health

    The health of women, newborns and children consists of trajectories and transitions throughout the lifecycle. Pregnant women need antenatal care, followed by safe and effective childbirth. Both mothers and babies need postnatal care during the crucial first 6 weeks linked to family planning services and paediatric care. However, many women are not aware of, or do not have access to health care services that can limit or avoid potentially harmful consequences of pregnancy and childbirth. This session will examine current and new strategies to identify and manage conditions in pregnancy that are associated with future ill health including diabetes, cardiac problems, mental health, brain development deficiencies.

    Within the perspective of human rights and the life-course approach we will reflect on the definition, measurement and control of maternal morbidity and its consequences on newborns’ and women’s health.

  3. Maternal death surveillance systems

    Each maternal death is a tragedy and in most cases the evidence of a health system failure. Yet, we have little information on causes and circumstances of maternal deaths in countries with high mortality rates. More accurate information is essential to improve the health system response to maternal deaths. Since 2013, WHO, UNFPA, DFID, CDC, ICM have pushed to imple-ment a Maternal Deaths Surveillance and Response system, i.e. "the routine identification and timely notification of maternal deaths is a form of continuous surveillance linking health infor-mation system and quality improvement processes from local to national level". However, there are still questions on its costs and implementation, as well as possible stigmatisation.

    This session will discuss the modalities and the implementation of different maternal death surveillance systems, e.g. national coverage or sampling, verbal autopsies, investigating home deaths in addition to hospital deaths, frequency of reporting and utilisation of the information for action and policy change.

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