Measuring facility capability to provide routine and emergency childbirth care to mothers and newborns: An appeal to adjust for delivery caseload of facilities

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0186515. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186515. eCollection 2017.


Background: Measurement of Emergency Obstetric Care capability is common, and measurement of newborn and overall routine childbirth care has begun in recent years. These assessments of facility capabilities can be used to identify geographic inequalities in access to functional health services and to monitor improvements over time. This paper develops an approach for monitoring the childbirth environment that accounts for the delivery caseload of the facility.

Methods: We used data from the Kenya Service Provision Assessment to examine facility capability to provide quality childbirth care, including infrastructure, routine maternal and newborn care, and emergency obstetric and newborn care. A facility was considered capable of providing a function if necessary tracer items were present and, for emergency functions, if the function had been performed in the previous three months. We weighted facility capability by delivery caseload, and compared results with those generated using traditional "survey weights".

Results: Of the 403 facilities providing childbirth care, the proportion meeting criteria for capability were: 13% for general infrastructure, 6% for basic emergency obstetric care, 3% for basic emergency newborn care, 13% and 11% for routine maternal and newborn care, respectively. When the new caseload weights accounting for delivery volume were applied, capability improved and the proportions of deliveries occurring in a facility meeting capability criteria were: 51% for general infrastructure, 46% for basic emergency obstetric care, 12% for basic emergency newborn care, 36% and 18% for routine maternal and newborn care, respectively. This is because most of the caseload was in hospitals, which generally had better capability. Despite these findings, fewer than 2% of deliveries occurred in a facility capable of providing all functions.

Conclusion: Reporting on the percentage of facilities capable of providing certain functions misrepresents the capacity to provide care at the national level. Delivery caseload weights allow adjustment for patient volume, and shift the denominator of measurement from facilities to individual deliveries, leading to a better representation of the context in which facility births take place. These methods could lead to more standardized national datasets, enhancing their ability to inform policy at a national and international level.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Pregnancy

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.