Childbirth fraught with health hazards for mother, infant: WHO

October 14th, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) Childbirth care for mothers and newborns continues to be fraught with problems and 58 million of the 136 million women who will give birth this year will not get medical help during and after their births, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday.Asking governments to focus on primary health care, the annual World Health Report release Tuesday said primary health care brings balance back to health care and puts families and communities at the hub of the health system.

The report says that globally, annual government expenditure on health varies from as little as $20 per person to well over $6,000 and for 5.6 billion people in low- and middle-income countries, more than half of all health care expenditure is through out-of-pocket payments.

“With the costs of health care rising and systems for financial protection in disarray, personal expenditures on health now push more than 100 million people below the poverty line each year,” said a statement issued here.

The report ‘Primary Health Care - Now More Than Ever’ critically assesses the way the health care is organised, financed, and delivered in rich and poor countries around the world.

“Childbirth care for mothers and newborns continues to face problems: in 33 countries, less than half of all births each year are attended by skilled health personnel,” the report said.

It said nearly 60 million women will give birth without any medical assistance this year.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan at the launch of the global report in Almaty, said “Viewed against current trends, primary health care looks more and more like a smart way to get health development back on track.”

The report said the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest countries still exceeds 40 years.

It also pointed out foreign aid to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and killer diseases in developing countries has distracted government’s attention from providing basic care to mothers and children.

“Disproportionate investment in a limited number of disease programmes considered as global priorities in countries that are dependent on external support has diverted the limited energies of ministries of health away from their primary role,” it said.

“In far too many cases, people who are well-off and generally healthier have the best access to the best care, while the poor are left to fend for themselves,” the report said.

It also highlighted the fact that profit-driven care has increased the use of unnecessary tests and procedures, prompted more frequent and longer hospital stays, driven up overall costs, and excluded those who cannot pay, the report.

WHO estimates that better use of existing preventive measures could reduce the global burden of disease by as much as 70 percent.

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