The Alliance for Maternal Health Equality in cooperation with MSD for Mothers held an event earlier this autumn during the European Health Forum Gastein, entitled: “Making it a reality: measuring performance for maternal health care”.
The event involved a number of quick-fire presentations in Pecha Kucha format to set the scene. One of these was by François Fille, the European Advocacy Co-ordinator of Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World.
“Is being pregnant an emergency?” Fille began by asking the audience.
Having worked for 25 years helping to deliver healthcare in developing countries, Fille is now focusing his efforts in Europe and he told the audience that he finds it hard to understand the lack of access to healthcare that is seen across the continent.
He told the audience that MDM have now commenced a significant project that aims to provide healthcare to vulnerable populations.
Funded by the European Commission, the “European network to reduce vulnerabilities in health” is a broad network of 23 non-governmental organization (NGOs) and academic partners, financed by the European Commission and hosted by Doctors of the World – Médecins du monde International Network, contributing to decrease EU-wide health inequalities and support European health systems to be better equipped to deal with vulnerability factors. “This project enables us to reinforce civil society to collect data to plan for more advocacy but also collect medical data that will allow for an improvement in quality,” explained Fille.
There are 30 consultation points across more than 20 countries in Europe currently producing much-needed data. Their 2016 observatory report will be published this month but Fille provided a preview of some preliminary data.
“We learned that the vulnerability of pregnant women is linked to their social environment and administrative status. The conditions and access to healthcare is connected to this,” he said.
Recent research by the network has shown that of undocumented female migrants, 52 per cent had no authorisation to reside in Europe, and some 68 per cent refused to go and seek healthcare for fear of arrest. Living conditions were extremely poor; eight per cent were homeless, while a further 48 percent considered their housing situation to be temporary or unstable.
“We saw that 16 percent of our pregnant patients had no one to rely on in case of emergency and 68 per cent had no access to health coverage. A total of 56 percent had access to antenatal care and just 39% had access to antenatal care after the twelfth week of pregnancy.”
Fille outlined that the most significant barrier to healthcare that people see in MdM programmes is restrictive national laws.
“This is the most important barrier to healthcare, Europe continues to tolerate national laws that deny access to maternal care – there is a gap between laws and practice,” he stated.
So what do we need? It is Fille and MdM’s belief that leaving the most destitute migrant pregnant woman without proper antenatal care in Europe constitutes an unacceptable assault on human rights and women’s condition.
“Anything other than universal free maternal health care is likely to affect the ability of services to identify pregnancy-related problems and perform early interventions,” asserted Fille.
Fille concluded by stating his belief that member states should offer systematic prenatal follow-up for all pregnant women and for their unborn children in accordance with WHO recommendations.
Read more about the workshop “Making it a reality: Measuring performance for maternal healthcare” here.