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WHO, HRP identify violation of human rights among pregnant women, offers strategies

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WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) have been cataloguing the violation of human rights and its impact on health and well-being for several years and has offered strategies to end the mistreatment.

The goal is to identify strategies to end mistreatment offer respectful maternal and newborn care and improve the experience of pregnant and birthing women.

This comes as an increasing body of evidence underscores the global issue of the mistreatment of women in maternal healthcare.

The WHO’s guidelines for intrapartum care to ensure a positive childbirth experience contain numerous recommendations related to this matter, yet research exploring effective interventions has been limited until now.

HRP, WHO authors and their collaborators have recently released a special series of five papers in the journal PLOS Global Public Health, delving into various strategies to put an end to the mistreatment of women during childbirth and enhance the provision of respectful care.

The first of these papers delve into theories regarding interventions aimed at reducing both physical and verbal abuse.

Within this paper, two key themes emerge: first, the normalization of violence within society, particularly against marginalized groups; and second, the misguided belief that the mistreatment of women is somehow necessary to minimize clinical harm.

The authors emphasize that solutions should not solely concentrate on addressing staff shortcomings through training or audit procedures.

Instead, there should be a focus on long-term solutions that can foster enduring shifts in attitudes and beliefs, resulting in a permanent behaviour change.

This approach should encompass individuals at all levels of the health and social care system, from frontline health workers to senior staff and middle managers, as well as organizational funders and auditors, leaders in local communities, politicians, and other key stakeholders.

Other research papers can be found here.

The authors have pinpointed various underlying power-related factors contributing to mistreatment across different levels of society.

These encompass intrapersonal elements, such as a lack of awareness about one’s rights; interpersonal dynamics, such as hierarchical structures between patients and healthcare providers; community aspects, including prevailing discrimination against indigenous women; organizational pressures, such as the drive for health workers to meet performance targets; and legal and policy issues, such as the absence of mechanisms to hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

Consequently, the authors contend that addressing these root causes necessitates the active involvement of a range of stakeholders.

This includes women, communities, the healthcare workforce, and policy-makers, all of whom play crucial roles in the path forward.

These insights will serve as a cornerstone for shaping a forthcoming WHO knowledge companion focused on promoting respectful maternal and newborn care.

This companion is scheduled for publication in 2024 and aims to facilitate enduring, positive transformations within healthcare systems.

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