Newly updated training aims to improve quality of care for mothers and newborns

F. Uxa, WHO CC in Trieste

Field-testing of the updated EPC training package in Uzbekistan

A second edition of WHO/Europe's Effective Perinatal Care (EPC) training package is being launched this month, after a 2-year process to update the original package. The updated EPC, which is based on the latest evidence and guidelines, will support countries across the European Region in improving the quality of maternal and newborn health care.

The EPC training package, originally issued in 2004, comprises 7 main steps for improving quality:

  1.  effectively teach evidence-based recommendations;
  2. develop practical skills;
  3. improve providers' attitude towards health services users and their respect of rights to care and overall equity in service delivery;
  4. stimulate critical thinking;
  5. facilitate the identification and prioritization of local problems;
  6. draw up a plan of action for quality improvement; and
  7. begin to change real practice.

Collaborative effort to produce and test new edition 

After assessing the quality of maternal and newborn care in more than 10 countries, WHO/Europe determined that the EPC training package should be updated to ensure that it provides the most current information and guidance. Preparation of the updated edition was led by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Maternal and Child Health, Institute of Child Health IRCCS Burlo Garofolo in Trieste, Italy. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Research in Human Reproduction, the Research Centre of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatology, Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation, led work on the Russian translation. 

The new version was piloted first in Uzbekistan and later in Kyrgyzstan. This field-testing allowed WHO/Europe and its partners to verify that all the messages and information in the EPC package are communicated clearly, before they officially launched the second edition.

"The process of updating the EPC training package was complex and required coordination among a team of international experts," said Marzia Lazzerini, Director of the Collaborating Centre for Maternal and Child Health, who led preparation of the second edition. "But the work and effort that went into the update is a vital part of making sure that health workers have the best tools and resources available for training in perinatal care. Helping to ensure high quality care for mothers and children is, of course, the ultimate goal." 

Training emphasizes multidisciplinary perinatal teams

The EPC training package is designed for midwives, obstetrician–gynaecologists, neonatologists, paediatric nurses and policy-makers. It includes the essentials of midwifery, obstetric and neonatal care, which are delivered in theoretical sessions, role-play, group work and several hours of hands-on training to develop practical skills with the newly obtained knowledge. The training methods promote the building of a perinatal team of health professionals, emphasizing the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration. At the end of the EPC course, participants make recommendations to improve the quality of care in their health facilities. 

As in the past, WHO/Europe will work with its partners UNICEF and UNFPA to deliver the updated training course to health workers throughout the Region.   

The EPC training package is aligned with the principles of "Health 2020", which recommends a life-course approach and early investment in health, focusing on pregnancy and early child development as windows of opportunity for future health outcomes and well-being.