Caring for Tomorrow

EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services

In 2010, EFCNI published an EU Benchmarking Report to help capture for policy makers the impact of prematurity across Europe. The EFCNI Benchmarking Report ‘Too Little, Too Late’ painted a compelling picture of the differences that exist in levels of care when it comes to maternal and newborn health in Europe. Indeed, it showed that in most EU Member States, maternal and newborn health is not considered to be a public health priority, despite its obvious connection to health outcomes in adult life.

 It also began a reflection process amongst parents, medical professionals, academics and industry partners to move from an identification of the various provisions that EU Member States have made for newborn infants, to concrete proposals for improving the standards of care in Europe.

As such, Caring for Tomorrow, the EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services aims to highlight some of the key concerns with regard to this growing patient group.

Parents who gave birth to a preterm baby or persons who shared the time before and after a preterm birth with the concerned family know quite well the feeling of helplessness: Even if most European countries provide high-quality neonatal care, the special needs of preterm infants are often neglected.

Furthermore, there is a lack of comprehensive public information and education on this topic: Still today many pregnant women are not aware of potential risk factors and how to prevent preterm birth. Concerned parents need better guidance how to care for their preterm baby during their stay in the hospital and after discharge as well as how to obtain support.

Well-organised, effective and targeted pre-conceptional, maternal and newborn care can make a lifelong difference to preterm born babies and newborns with illnesses as well as their families. Support to get this care right is the aim of EFCNI and the European national parents' organisations. 

Aim and use of the EFCNI-White Paper

This EFCNI White Paper is designed to initiate and support discussions in the European Union and its Member States on the delivery of high-quality safe health care starting at pre-conception and reaching to aftercare. Only by adding maternal and newborn health back on the political agendas, urgent health problems of our (future) societies can be tackled and ideally be prevented. This Paper intends to underpin the importance and responsibility for societies to ensure that mothers, parents, preterm infants and infants with illnesses receive the appropriate attention and good care necessary to produce the best long-term outcomes for them and for their families.

European and national policy makers should use this Paper to plan, improve and deliver quality care for mothers and their newborns, and especially preterm infants and newborns with illnesses and their families.

Health care providers from different medical disciplines and professions as well as parents and professional societies were asked to provide their perspectives on challenges and evidence-based recommendations in the field of pre-conceptional, maternal, newborn care and aftercare.

As a result of these contributions, a set of key recommendations for quality pre-conceptional , maternal, newborn care and aftercare were developed in each field.

Thirteen key recommendations

The thirteen key recommendations identified in this White Paper cover the following areas of activity on national and European level:

  1. Recognize the issues of maternal, newborn care and aftercare as a public helath priority, particularly the health of preterm infants and infants with illnesses
  2. Acknowledge the potential long-term consequences of preterm birth and for newborns with illnesses that need to be tackled
  3. Address health inequalities in maternal and newborn care within all European Member States
  4. Conduct national audits on maternal, newborn care and aftercare services and establish a multidisciplinary task force for developing national best practice guidelines
  5. Implement national policies and guidelines for high-quality pre-conceptional, maternal and newborn care and aftercare. These policies and guidelines should include the principles highlighted in this White Paper
  6. Provide equal and early access to full and true information, education and counselling
  7. Harmonise education and training of health care providers
  8. Provide social and financial support to parents and families
  9. Develop and implement strategies for public awareness and education
  10. Harmonise cross-border maternal and newborn healthcare
  11. Monitor outcomes and  implement audit procedures in maternal, newborn and aftercare
  12. Implement European wide standardised datasets for pregnancy and preterm birth outcome
  13. Invest in comprehensive research to tackle the challenge of preterm birth and its potential long-term consequences

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Parents' and newborns' rights

In addition to these recommendations and principles for pre-conceptional, maternal, newborn care as well as aftercare, EFCNI summarized clear rights of parents and newborns which need to be taken into account in any health care strategy on maternal and newborn care.

Within the heterogeneity of European health care standards and economic conditions, politicians, stakeholders, health care providers, parent representatives and strategic health authorities will need to work together to identify key parts for implementation of these recommendations on a national and European level and discuss the potential financial impact of the recommendations required to provide cash-releasing savings and improve productivity in order to make improved, high-quality maternal, neonatal and aftercare  services a reality in all Member States.

The rights of parents and newborns

The Call to Action for Newborn Health

Launch Event White Paper Nov 2011

Please click on the video below for an impression of the launch event in November 2011.

This report was produced by EFCNI, supported by Weber Shandwick, Brussels, an EU public affairs and public policy consultancy, in collaboration with the editoral board of this White Paper. 

The whole project was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Abbott, partially co-sponsered by Dräger as well as Nestlé Nutrition, Chiesi and Getemed.

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