Strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of maternal and perinatal death reviews in Tanzania: perceptions, processes and practice

Trop Med Int Health. 2014 Sep;19(9):1087-95. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12353. Epub 2014 Jul 8.


Objectives: Tanzania institutionalised maternal and perinatal death reviews (MPDR) in 2006, yet there is scarce evidence on the extent and quality of implementation of the system. We reviewed the national policy documentation and explored stakeholders' involvement in, and perspectives of, the role and practices of MPDR in district and regional hospitals, and assessed current capacity for achieving MPDR.

Methods: We reviewed the national MPDR guidelines and conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Thirty-two informants in Mara Region were interviewed within health administration and hospitals, and five informants were included at the central level. Interviews were analysed for comparison of statements across health system level, hospital, profession and MPDR experience.

Results: The current MPDR system does not function adequately to either perform good quality reviews or fulfil the aspiration to capture every facility-based maternal and perinatal death. Informants at all levels express differing understandings of the purpose of MPDR. Hospital reviews fail to identify appropriate challenges and solutions at the facility level. Staff are committed to the process of maternal death review, with routine documentation and reporting, yet action and response are insufficient.

Conclusion: The confusion between MPDR and maternal death surveillance and response results in a system geared towards data collection and surveillance, failing to explore challenges and solutions from within the remit of the hospital team. This reduces the accountability of the health workers and undermines opportunities to improve quality of care. We recommend initiatives to strengthen the quality of facility-level reviews in order to establish a culture of continuous quality of care improvement and a mechanism of accountability within facilities. Effective facility reviews are an important peer-learning process that should remain central to quality of care improvement strategies.

Keywords: audit médicale; auditoría médica; evaluación cualitativa; maternal death; medical audit; mortalité maternelle; muertes maternas; politique de santé; política de salud pública; public health policy; qualitative evaluation; santé publique; évaluation qualitative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hospitals / standards*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Death*
  • Maternal Health Services / standards*
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Medical Audit / standards*
  • Perception
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Tanzania