Mothers' Lives Matter: Maternal health in the community

 The 2 greatest health risks for women in their reproductive years are pregnancy and childbirth.  This is especially true in developing countries, where more than half a million women die each year in pregnancy or childbirth.  A concerted effort by families, communities, and health care professionals, especially maternal health care providers, can make childbearing safer.  Maternal health care providers, as well as referral centers, have a responsibility to promote improvements in women's health.  Referral centers can offer emergency treatment when labor or delivery complications occur at home, provide a safer place to deliver for those women likely to develop complications, and offer treatment for problems that develop during pregnancy.  The role of the community in the provision of maternal health care is important.  Prenatal screening, trained health care workers who could attend deliveries at home, available transportation to referral centers, family planning and education and adequate food supplies are some of the ways communities can take an active role in maternal health care.  Because many women prefer traditional birth attendants (TBAs) or relatives even when trained providers are available, maternal health programs need to cooperate and integrate TBAs into the maternal health care system.  Training for TBAs, as well as training for health care providers and doctors and nurse, is important for the establishment of a responsive health care system.  Controversy exists about where the emphasis should lie in maternal health care.  While preventive care and safer delivery is important, referral centers and transportation needs also require resource consideration.  Although community-level maternal health care is not yet widespread, appropriate training, communication, and cooperation can help to achieve this goal and give priority care to maternal health.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program