Standardizing Treatment Guidelines for Obstetric Health in DRC
In late 2009, the USAID-funded and MSH-implemented program Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems (SPS) conducted an assessment on the availability and use of emergency obstetric medicines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). SPS found that the national guidelines for informing health care providers of the most current, approved medicines and procedures—Standard Treatment Guidelines (STGs)—were out of date, particularly for preventing and treating complications during pregnancy. The outdated guidelines were leading to preventable deaths in a country where poverty and gendered cultural traditions result in one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. Following the assessment, SPS has been assisting the Ministry of Health in the DRC in updating their STGs.
As of July 2011, the ministry has adopted several of the new guidelines, including the use of magnesium sulfate for the treatment of preeclampsia and eclampsia, oxytocin in the third stage of labor to reduce post-partum hemorrhaging, and misoprostol as an option for the prevention and treatment of post-partum hemorrhage.
SPS, along with the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, IRC, and other NGOs working on maternal health in the DRC, will assist the ministry in finalizing the guideline documents so they can be made available to all health facilities within the DRC. MSH's Integrated Health Program (IHP), which is also funded by USAID, will train health providers on how to apply the new methods of treatment so that future mothers in the DRC can have improved care and better life expectancy.
Ensuring that STGs for maternal health are in place and in use not only helps to save women's lives and improve their health; it also institutionalizes and legitimizes the importance of women's health and survival.