Quality, Equity, and Dignity for Women and Babies

Quality, Equity, and Dignity for Women and Babies

By: Mary V. Kinney, Amy Boldosser-Boesch, Betsy McCallon
Publication: The LancetVol. 388, Oct. 29, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31525-2.


This editorial introduces the Lancet series on maternal health. This series highlights two fundamental issues that need to be addressed to improve maternal health: quality of maternal health care for all women and access to care for those left behind. It calls for addressing social determinants of maternal and newborn health and improving access to respectful, high-quality, integrated care. The health and survival of women and their babies are inextricably linked; a coordinated, integrated “continuum of care” approach that optimises the health of the mother–baby dyad is required to fully maximise the potential benefits. Current strategies already make a case for an integrated approach, and evidence indicates that women are more satisfied with a more integrated approach.

One promising development is WHO’s Quality of Care Framework for Maternal and Newborn Health with accompanying technical standards and guidelines for quality of care. We are hopeful that the roll-out of the implementation framework—unlike the development of the framework itself—will provide opportunities to engage women and local stakeholders in the process of defining quality of care. To this end, a new maternal–newborn health advocacy effort is underway to support implementation of the framework, influence supportive global and national policies and investments, and unify stakeholders in joint action with emphasis on the human rights-based goals of equity, universal coverage, access to quality care services, and dignity and respect for all women and babies.