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A reassessment of the concept of reproductive risk in maternity care and family planning services. Proceedings of a seminar presented under the Population Council's Robert H. Ebert Program on Critical Issues in Reproductive Health and Population, February 12-13, 1990, the Population Council, New York, New York.
New York, New York, Population Council, 1990. x, 185 p.Conference proceedings on reassessing the concept of reproductive risk in maternity care and family planning (FP) services cover the following topics: assessment of the history of the concept of reproductive risk, the epidemiology of screening, the implementation of the risk approach in maternity care in Western countries and in poorer countries and in FP, the possible effects on the health care system, costs, and risk benefit calculations. Other risk approaches and ethical considerations are discussed. The conclusions pertain to costs and allocation of resources, information and outreach, objectives, predictive ability, and risk assessment in FP. Recommendations are made. Appendixes include a discussion of issues involved in developing a reproductive risk assessment instrument and scoring system, and the WHO risk approach in maternal and child health and FP. The results show that the application of risk assessment warrants caution and usefulness in service delivery is questionable. The weaknesses and negative effects need further investigation. Risk-based systems tend toward skewed resource allocation. Equal access to care, freedom of choice, and personal autonomy are jeopardized. Risk assessment can accurately predict for a group, but not for individuals. Risk assessment cannot be refined as it is an instrument directed toward probabilities. The risk approach must be evaluated within a functioning health care system. Screening has been important in developed countries, but integration into developing country health care systems may be appropriate only when basic health care is in place and in urban and periurban communities. Recommendations are 1) to prevent problems and detect rather than predict actual complications when no effective maternity care is available; to provide effective care to all women, not just those at high risk; and to provide transportation to adequate facilities for women with complications. 2) All persons attending births should be trained to handle emergencies. 3) Risk assessment has no value unless basic reproductive health services are in place. Cost benefit analysis precludes implementation. Alternative strategies are available to increase contact of women with the health care system, to improve public education strategies, to improve the quality of traditional birth attendants, and to improve the quality of existing services. Women's ideas about what is "risk" and the cost and benefits of a risk-based system to women needs to be solicited. All bad outcomes are not preventable. Copies of this document can be obtained from The Population Council, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, NY, NY 10017. Tel: (212) 339-0625, e-mail email@example.com.