Making systems work: The hard part of improving maternal health services in South Africa

Type Journal Article - Reproductive Health Matters
Title Making systems work: The hard part of improving maternal health services in South Africa
Volume 15
Issue 30
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Page numbers 38-49
As part of a multi-country study, maternal health services were reviewed in one health district in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Poor record-keeping, inadequate supervision, poor levels of clinical knowledge and under-utilisation of midwife obstetric units were found. Interventions identified by local health service personnel to improve maternity care were developed, implemented and evaluated, included programme-specific (training in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and neonatal resuscitation) and system interventions (improving interpersonal relations and system functioning, use of routine data for monitoring purposes, improving supervision skills). This resulted in some positive outputs. Health worker knowledge and patient records improved, and there was some indication that supervision improved. However, system-wide interventions that could improve programmes were less successful. To build a learning organisation, a new culture of monitoring and evaluation, including routine self-evaluation, is required as core skills for all health workers. These data should be used at the point of collection. Changing reporting lines between programme and district managers may improve co-ordination between different authorities, and there is a need to enhance the manner in which staff are assessed, appraised, promoted and rewarded. Professional bodies who oversee training curricula, institutions that offer training, and institutions that provide funding for training and development need to take on the challenge of health systems development and avoid promoting programme-specific interventions only

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