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WHO Recommendations Enable More Health Workers for Maternal and Newborn Health

The most recent World Health Organization publication, Optimizing Health Worker Roles to Improve Access to Key Maternal and Newborn Health Interventions Through Task Shifting, recommends that governments enable more health workers below the level of doctor to deliver vital maternal and newborn healthcare services, including family planning.

These guidelines would allow health systems to function more efficiently as well as ease the constant shortage of health workers that hinders access to healthcare all over the world, primarily in developing countries.

Government health policies require that only doctors provide certain medical interventions due to their complexity or risks of complication. Other interventions are more straightforward in their provision and run very low risk of health complications, however they also require high-level health professionals to administer them. As family planning methods are not considered medically complex and require adequate counseling, advocacy organizations such as Marie Stopes International have long called for these restrictions to be lifted.

In developing countries where doctor-patient ratios can be two to 100,000 people, millions can be left without access to healthcare. The WHO recommends that lower-level professionals such as associate clinicians, who are often much more accessible in rural areas than doctors, are trained and enabled to perform certain essential tasks. If this is implemented by governments, this could greatly increase access to maternal and newborn healthcare.

The WHO guidelines and interactive tool clearly lay out efficient, effective, and safe policy recommendations to improve access to family planning, as well as other crucial maternal and newborn health interventions. Read the full WHO guidelines here.

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