The elimination of congenital syphilis: a comparison of the proposed World Health Organization action plan for the elimination of congenital syphilis with existing national maternal and congenital syphilis policies

Sex Transm Dis. 2007 Jul;34(7 Suppl):S22-30. doi: 10.1097/01.olq.0000261049.84824.40.


Background and objectives: Building upon a critical assessment of national policies, programs, and treatment options, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently developed an action plan for the elimination of congenital syphilis (CS). The objective of the review was to identify areas of commonality or divergence between the national strategies and the WHO plan, thereby helping to target the development of national-level policies in light of the forthcoming recommendations of the proposed WHO action plan to eliminate CS.

Study design: The 4 strategic pillars of the proposed WHO action plan were used as a comparative framework to examine the policy, programmatic, and monitoring components of a sample of 14 existing national-level congenital or maternal control policies. The countries were chosen to represent a range of resource and prevalence levels.

Results: The majority of countries do not meet every element proposed in the WHO action plan. Political commitment (pillar 1) across the 14 countries is varied. CS elimination goals were rare but all had universal screening. Linkages to appropriate case management services were identified in 11 countries, although a national governing body was not generally evident. Efforts to increase and improve access to care (pillar 2) were noted in 8 countries with recommendations to ensure all pregnant women were screened and treated. Low-resource settings have formed international partnerships. Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of pregnant women and partners (pillar 3) found in high-resource settings were lacking in low-resource and high CS prevalence countries. Surveillance programs were active in 10 countries while comprehensive details on monitoring and evaluation (pillar 4) components including proxy CS indicators were unavailable for nearly all.

Conclusions: The elimination of CS can be achieved through the implementation of a series of proven measures but requires technical support, funding, and a commitment among political forces, health officials, and the public to prevent and treat all CS cases and help countries reach their Millennium Development Goals. Stronger partnerships with clearly defined responsibilities should be developed among agencies responsible for national STI control, HIV/AIDS control, and Making Pregnancy Safer initiatives to ensure the universal coverage of CS control interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Health Planning*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Child Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Policy Making
  • Pregnancy
  • Syphilis, Congenital / epidemiology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / etiology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / prevention & control*
  • World Health Organization*