Preconception care: developing and implementing regional and national programs
Keywords:preconception care, preconception health, women’s health, maternal health, infant health, program development, program implementatio
Introduction: During the past few decades, health workers have come to agree that there is a very important place for preconception care (PCC) in improving maternal and infant pregnancy outcomes. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization issued recommendations encouraging countries to develop and implement preconception care programs. The reports include an in-depth discussion of the rationale and scientific evidence behind PCC as well as definitions, goals, components and recommended interventions to be included in PCC. These reports also offer very broad guidelines but do not offer details on how to develop and implement preconception care programs.
Objective: The CDC and WHO reports identify the need for multisectoral engagement in developing and implementing preconception care programs and propose some activities and strategies to be considered in developing PCC programs. However, the recommendations fall short of specifying real steps that countries and regions should take in implementing PCC programs. In this publication we propose action steps for developing and implementing regional or national preconception care programs.
Methods: We reviewed the published and unpublished literature (using PubMed and the Internet) to identify reports that describe processes for developing and implementing PCC programs. We used information from the literature along with experiences we gained through our work and interaction with States and developing countries to prepare a detailed description of the steps involved in developing and implementing a PCC program.
Results: We found very little in terms of “tools” for program managers and providers to use when developing and implementing PCC programs. We prepared a guide, including a summary of steps and a proposed timeline, for program directors to use for developing and implementing PCC programs.
Conclusion: Developing and implementing a sustainable PCC program should address issues related to educating the public, providers and policy makers about the benefits of PCC. It also includes establishing an infrastructure within the departments of health and ensuring resources to build, guide, monitor and evaluate the PCC program. Finally, implementation of a successful program depends heavily on the proper training of public health and clinical care providers in the delivery of the services included in the program.
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