The Partnership Program

'Health professional associations… have vital roles to play in ensuring that health professionals are well-prepared for their important roles in achieving the MDGs 4 & 5. Strong professional associations provide leadership. They set standards of education, practice and professional competency assessment, and can work together with governments and other stakeholders in setting and implementing health policies to improve the health of women, newborns, children and adolescents. However, the ability of professional associations to make such contributions depend on individual organizational and institutional capacities at country level. This is especially true in those resource-poor settings, where the vast majority of maternal, newborn and child deaths and morbidity occur.'

Joint Statement “Health Professional Groups Key to Reaching MDGs 4 & 5”, PMNCH, 2007

The Partnership Program

National professional obstetric and gynaecological associations are critical tools in promoting maternal and newborn health. These organizations have first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing their members and other health professionals and, further, have an important contribution to make in the advancement of their members by promoting codes of conduct that respect and promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, collaborative working models that value the contribution of all involved, and medical practice rooted in evidence based medicine. However, to assume this leadership role, make an impact, and fulfill their organizational purpose, professional associations need to be strong and viable, capable of achieving their planned objectives. In developing countries, ob/gyn associations face specific difficulties preventing them from fully meeting the needs of their members. Lack of organizational resources, closed or limited membership, and the need for greater commitment to public health concerns are some of the issues that prevent professional ob/gyn associations in developing countries from maximizing their role as women’s health advocates.

In response to these issues, the SOGC has developed the CIDA-funded Partnership Program. The program partners with the professional ob/gyn associations of Guatemala, Uganda, Haiti, and Burkina Faso. The goal of these partnerships is to strengthen the capacity of these national organizations, in order to ultimately improve women’s sexual and reproductive health, and reduce maternal and newborn mortality. By providing technical assistance, group training, leadership activities for residents and young physicians, financial support, educational materials and more to these partner associations, the Partnership Program allows these professional associations to grow beyond the constraints of limited resources and capacities and become champions of women’s health.

Successes

The SOGC’s Partnership Program has focused on capacity building with ob/gyn professional associations in Uganda (AOGU), Guatemala (AGOG), Haiti (SHOG) and Burkina Faso (SOGOB). To date, the support provided by SOGC has enabled the associations to:

  • Establish functional secretariats permitting the professional associations to communicate better with their members and partners, nationally and internationally and access, via the web, the growing number of evidence based resources in their field.
  • Strengthen governance structures and practices by supporting revised statutes and bylaws, development and implementation of strategic plans, strategies to support the participation of a greater number of women within the associations and adoption of code of ethics.
  • Position themselves as expert trainers in the field of emergency obstetrical care. As of December 31, 2007, AOGU, AGOG and SHOG have national teams of qualified instructors who have trained over 950 health professionals in ALARM International, supporting safe motherhood and newborn health initiatives
  • Be involved in improving access and quality of care. Since 1999, AOGU has worked on a variety of initiatives in the Kiboga and Kibaale districst of Uganda, including supporting community leaders in developing strategies to address barriers to care, education activities in public schools, public forums, and improving the relationship between community midwives and traditional birth attendants.
  • Be instrumental is lobbying and advocating for the passage of important legistation. AGOG has provided critical support for the Family Planning Law, which guarantees universal and public access to reproductive health services.
  • Offer continuing medical education activities related to emergency obstetrics to health professionals. In addition to offering continuing medical education opportunities, SHOG is also working on evaluating and training to upgrade the skills of health professionals and centres delivering emergency obstetrical care.
  • Promote new education programs to promote sexual and reproductive health goals. AOGU supported the establishment of a Masters degree program designed to save mothers’ lives by implicating professionals from a variety of disciplines and creating an infrastructure to address the problem in Uganda.

All four associations (AOGU, AGOG, SHOG and SOGOB) have increasingly been successful in positioning themselves as important national stakeholders in their country's effort to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Most notably, they are increasingly being recognized as technical experts in the promotion of new life-saving interventions internationally recognized to save women’s lives, such as Active Management of Third Stage of Labour to prevent and treat post-partum hemorrhage and the use of maternal mortality audits (or near misses) as a tool to monitor and evaluate progress in maternal and infant health initiatives.