What is quality of care?

The World Health Organization defines quality of care as ‘The extent to which health care services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes’. 
In order to achieve this, health care needs to be safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable, and people-centred. Quality of care is a key component of the right to health, and the route to equity and dignity for women and children.

Why focus on quality of care?

Globally, the rate of skilled care during childbirth has increased from 58% in 1990 to 73% in 2013, mostly due to increases in facility-based births. But giving birth in a health facility with a ‘skilled’ attendant is not sufficient to reduce maternal and newborn deaths and severe morbidity. Many women and their babies die from poor care practices, even after reaching a health facility. Health facilities often struggle to provide the rapid emergency care needed to manage maternal complications and care for small and sick newborns. Common causes include inadequate or unhygienic infrastructure; lack of competent, motivated staff; lack of availability or poor quality of medicines; poor compliance to evidence-based clinical interventions and practices;  and poor documentation and use of information. Improving quality of care and patient safety are therefore critical if we want to accelerate reductions in maternal and newborn mortality.

Why focus only on mothers and newborns?

While the Network in the first phase focuses its’ efforts on mothers and newborn, it will quickly expand to include child health and will  gradually cover the full continuum of care.

What are the consequences of poor quality care?

Mothers and newborns continue to die from preventable causes, such as blood loss, high blood pressure, obstructed labour, complications of pre-term birth, asphyxia and infection, even when they are in the care of health services. Poor quality care also increases the risk of illness and life-long disability. Mothers may suffer from pelvic infections, fistula, uterine prolapse, fatigue and depression. Babies may be infected, or suffer asphyxia or trauma during labour, leading to neurodevelopmental impairments and disabilities. Being born too soon presents a hugely increased risk of death and complications in settings where nursing care for sick babies is weak

What will the Network do?

  • Focus on national leadership by building and strengthening national and districts institutions and mechanisms for improving quality of care in the health sector
  • Accelerate action through well-coordinated and harmonized efforts to improve quality of care using evidence-based standards and implementation interventions
  • Foster learning and generate evidence on quality of care through a Learning Platform -  a community of health practitioners from around the world co-developing and sharing knowledge, country data and research
  • Develop and support institutions and mechanisms for accountability for quality of care

What impact will the Quality of Care Network have?

If the Quality of Care Network is successful, millions of women and their newborns who endure unnecessary and preventable risks in childbirth will benefit from better care; health workers who face enormous challenges in resource-poor settings will have access to quality of care improvement solutions that are adapted to their context; nations which see investment in healthy women and children as the bedrock of economic and social development will implement their maternal, newborn and children health strategies more efficiently; and global development partners will see rapid progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets of the  Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health (2016 – 2030),  supported by partners aligned under the Every Woman Every Child initiative.