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SDG 3: Is midwife profession a dying phenomenon?

The imminent World’s Nursing report by the World Health Organization will focus on global shortage of nurses and midwives (which account for nearly half of the global health workforce), and the requirement of an estimated 9 million people in these professions by 2030.

Subhro Prakash GhoshSubhro Prakash Ghosh | Updated: 05-03-2020 17:08 IST | Created: 05-03-2020 17:08 IST
SDG 3: Is midwife profession a dying phenomenon?
Unless the barriers to midwifery units are addressed, use will remain low and pregnant women’s access to midwifery units will continue to be restricted. Image Credit: Twitter / UN Geneva

Any detailed discussion on midwifery in one way or another always tends to remind Florence Nightingale atleast once due to her severe contribution to humanity. But unfortunately, this beautiful profession witnesses a constant dwindling with people having lesser interest in becoming midwives.

Latest study at the University of Nottingham on midwifery units

A recent study was conducted by the experts at the University of Nottingham in collaboration with the experts from De Montfort University and the University of London that revealed that in a quarter of local maternity services in England, midwifery units are not available, or women have trouble getting information or access to them.

There is strong evidence that it is safer and cheaper for healthy women with straightforward pregnancies to give birth in a midwifery unit rather than in an obstetric unit in a hospital. The Birthplace in England study published in 2011 found that women who planned birth in midwifery units had around one-third the rate of caesarean births and less than half the rate of forceps births, with no difference in safety outcomes for their babies. Through qualitative studies, families using these services are observed to have more positive experiences and satisfaction with much care.

Research from the National Audit Office in 2013 found that if 20 percent of births occurred in midwifery units, savings to the National Health Service (NHS) maternity budget could be around £85m a year. As part of their research, the team studied the current availability of midwifery units in England to see whether this low use was because they were not available, whether there was a lack of information about them, a lack of interest amongst users of maternity services, or other factors.

The study findings (published on BMJ Open) identify numerous barriers to the uptake of midwifery units. Unless the barriers to midwifery units are addressed (including providing women with information about these units), use will remain low and pregnant women's access to midwifery units will continue to be restricted. In other words, there are significant hindrances to midwifery units to reach full potential, mainly free-standing midwifery units. These include the lack of commitment by providers to embed midwifery units as an essential service provision alongside their obstetric units. "For English maternity services to realise the full benefit of midwifery units, they must be far more proactive in promoting them locally as an equal and complementary provision alongside their standard labour wards," Denis Walsh, Associate Professor in Midwifery at the University of Nottingham said.

Why 2020 is the year of the nurse and midwife?

You may wonder what's special in it and why even the World Health Organization (WHO) is focussing on 2020 as the year of the nurse and midwife. The WHO has designated 2020 as 'the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife' in honour of Florence Nightingale, who received the first theatrical posthumous representation 'The Lady With the Lamp'. The WHO has designated this year to the honour of her 200th birth anniversary as a way to celebrate the approx. 22 million nurses and 2 million midwives across the planet.

The WHO, on the other hand, has decided to launch the first State of the World's Nursing report at the 73rd World Health Assembly slated to take place in Geneva between May 17 and 21, 2020.

Thanks to the founder or pioneer of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale and the Nightingale School, nursing was started to be seen as a very respectable profession for women and it continues till date despite the dwindle in the profession.

Few key highlights of imminent World's Nursing report

The WHO State of the World's Nursing report will describe how the nursing workforce will help deliver Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals, and highlight areas for policy development for the next three to five years. It will report on the progress and future challenges to deliver effective coverage and quality midwifery services. This is going to be the third State of the World Midwifery report. Previous iterations were published in 2011 and 2014.

The imminent report is said to be informing national policy dialogue on strengthening nursing and midwifery and accelerating progress across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report will focus on the global shortage of nurses and midwives (which account for nearly half of the global health workforce), and the requirement of an estimated 9 million people in these professions by 2030.

The report will also focus on the need to have adequate nurses and midwives who have the education, training, support, pay and recognition necessary with an objective to meet the SDG 3 (good health and well-being for people at all ages) by 2030. Investing in these professions will result in improved health outcomes, health security and inclusive economic growth.

The several current studies may show dwindling figures of nurses and midwives across the world in the last few years, but the steps taken by the WHO ensures to ignite the inspirational flame of many in choosing these professions. If we really want to achieve the targets set by UN under SDG 3 by 2030, the major responsibilities go to the private and public institutions which must encourage the students to choose these professions, improve their income levels, provide the right training, education, support, recognition etc. Giving awards and certificates to nurses and midwives to honour their contributions is another necessary step in attracting others in these professions.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

Also Read: How Pakistani women secured 'Aurat March' despite being labelled 'Anti-Islamic'


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