Strengthening maternal and child health programmes through primary health care. Guidelines for countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Based on the deliberations of the Intercountry Meeting on the Integration of MCH into Primary Health Care, Amman, Jordan, 11-15 December 1988.
All countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) have had maternal and child health (MCH) programs for many years, yet maternal mortality and morbidity and infant mortality remain high. The EMRO office in Jordan, recognizing this dilemma, convened a meeting of national managers from the 22 EMRO member states to discuss how to integrate MCH programs with primary health care (PHC). The meeting resulted in the publication of guidelines and goals to help each country integrate MCH into PHC which would strengthen MCH services and improve MCH status. The managers noted the need to switch from a pregnancy-oriented approach to a holistic approach in which MCH/PHC programs and society consider women as more than childbearers. MCH/PHC programs and society need to be concerned about the well-being of females beginning with infancy and should place considerable health promotion for girls during the pubertal spurt and adolescence. They should also promote prevention of iron deficiency anemia in women. Since maternal mortality is especially high is EMRO, the national managers clearly laid out approaches for health services to reduce maternal mortality caused by obstetrical complications. They also recognized the need for a practical alternative to obstetric care provided by health workers--training traditional birth attendants in each village. They also provided guidance on improving prenatal care to reduce perinatal and neonatal mortality such as vaccination of every pregnant woman with the tetanus toxoid. Since the causes of death in the postneonatal period, MCH/PHC programs need to take action to reduce malnutrition and infection. For example, they must promote breast feeding for at least the first 6 months of life. The managers suggested the implementation of the Child Survival and Development Strategy which includes growth monitoring.