The extent to which health care services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes. (WHO)
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.
In 2016 WHO published standards for improving the quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities. The standards place people at the centre of the care by improving both the provision of health care, as well as patients’ experience of health care, and are a critical part of strengthening health systems and moving towards Universal Health Coverage.
Quality provision of care for pregnant women and newborns in health facilities requires competent and motivated health professionals, as well as resources such as clean water, essential medicines, equipment and supplies. In addition, evidence-based practices for routine and emergency care rely on functional referral systems between levels of care as well as information systems that enable review and audit to take place.
Experience of quality care requires effective communication—a woman (or her family if required) should feel that she understands what is happening and what to expect, and knows her rights. She should receive care with respect and dignity, and she should have access to the social and emotional support of her choice.
Community engagement is also central to improving quality of care. The perspectives of women, their families and communities, on the quality of services influence their decisions to seek care. The engagement of service providers in facilities with communities they serve to understand their expectations, build trust and engage them in the process of delivery are essential components for creating a demand for and access to quality maternal and newborn services.