WHO field-tests landmark childbirth ‘checklist’

21 NOVEMBER 2012 | GENEVA - To reduce the chance that a mother or her baby dies during childbirth or shortly after, WHO has developed the Pilot Edition of the Safe Childbirth Checklist and is currently collaborating with possible users to field-test its effectiveness.

In 2010, 287 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth, some 2.6 million stillbirths occurred worldwide, and nearly 3 million newborns died within their first month of life. The majority of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings and most could have been prevented.

The Safe Childbirth Checklist is an easy-to-read list to remind health-care workers of essential maternal and prenatal care practices to allow for a healthier delivery. It contains 29 items addressing the major causes of maternal death, including haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour, and neonatal deaths. During its initial test phase in India, its use increased the use of essential childbirth-related care practices by almost 50%.

Any health-care, research or academic institution, nongovernmental organization or other agency, especially in low- and middle-income countries, can join the collaborative field-testing exercise to help WHO ensure the viability and practical use of the Checklist in multiple settings and identify barriers and successes in its use. To know more and participate in the collaboration, please visit: www.who.int/patientsafety

At this time, WHO is also collaborating with the Harvard School of Public Health in carrying out a trial in more than 100 hospitals in India to determine whether the adoption of the Checklist improves health outcomes for the mother and the newborn.

The Safe Childbirth Checklist Programme represents a joint effort between the WHO Patient Safety Programme (PSP) and the Departments of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (MNCH) and Reproductive Health Research (RHR) in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health.

“This Checklist is similar to the style of the Surgical Safety Checklist which was introduced in 2008 by the World Health Organization. Since then, it has changed medical practice in developed as well as developing countries and has become the one of the most downloaded documents from the WHO website,” says Dr Edward Kelley, Coordinator of the Patient Safety Programme in the Health Systems and Innovation (HIS) Cluster in WHO headquarters.