The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new manual for health workers to assist them in providing excellent abortion services to women and girls. The publication offers thorough clinical advice to help with the implementation of WHO’s consolidated guidance on abortion care, which will be released in 2022.
Abortion clinical services include not just the procedure itself, but also information and counselling, pain management, and post-abortion care, including contraception. In accordance with WHO’s updated recommendations, the Clinical practice handbook for quality abortion care also includes increased information on how health practitioners can promote self-management options and, where possible, telemedicine.
HRP logo at 50 years old”Health workers have a critical role to play in delivering quality abortion care that respects women and girls’ choices and meets their needs,” said Dr Pascale Allotey, WHO’s Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and Head of the United Nations Special Programme for Human Reproduction (HRP). “The purpose of this guide is to assist health workers in providing safe, timely, and effective abortion services while treating women and girls with dignity and respecting their rights.”
Self-management is a way of administering medical abortion that the WHO endorses as a safe and effective method of terminating a pregnancy. Mifepristone and misoprostol, the drugs used, are on the WHO’s Essential Medicines List.
Women can self-manage any or all stages of a medical abortion with adequate support, such as in the privacy of their own home. “When a woman chooses to self-manage her abortion, health workers must be able to provide her with appropriate, accurate information and advice so she knows what to do, when to do it, and, if necessary, how to access follow-up support,” said Dr Bela Ganatra, WHO’s Head of the Comprehensive Abortion Care Unit.
“Medical abortion has played a seminal role in expanding access to safe abortion globally, especially for women and girls in the most vulnerable situations who may lack access to health facilities or need to keep their abortion private by avoiding hospital stays, so it’s important that healthcare practitioners can facilitate it as an option for abortion care.”
The Handbook explains how health workers can practically apply human rights principles in their work to provide abortion care, such as ensuring all women and girls have complete and accurate information to support informed choices, respecting consent and their confidentiality, and enabling autonomous decision-making over all aspects of reproductive health.
Although this article focuses primarily on the clinical aspects of abortion care, health personnel must also be supported in order to deliver these services without fear of being judged or reprimanded. WHO issued an evidence brief in early 2023 with the goal of assisting policymakers in addressing legal and regulatory barriers that impede access to safe abortion.
This is one of several tools available to help practitioners and interested countries implement WHO guidance, including a pocket guide and wall chart on medical abortion recommendations, as well as a toolkit on the competencies required by health workers to provide quality abortion and family planning services.
The new paper, which was released today, replaces the clinical guide from 2014. It was released at the 33rd International Confederation of Midwives Congress in Bali, Indonesia, and is applicable to a wide spectrum of health workers involved in providing abortion services, including midwives, physicians, nurses, and pharmacists.
More About World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) responsible for international public health. Established on April 7, 1948, with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO serves as the leading global authority on health-related issues.
The primary goal of the WHO is to promote the attainment of the highest possible level of health for all people worldwide. It works towards achieving this through various activities, including setting global health standards, conducting research, providing technical assistance to countries, and coordinating international efforts to address health challenges.
Key areas of focus for the WHO include:
- Health emergencies and outbreaks: The WHO plays a crucial role in responding to and managing global health emergencies, such as epidemics, pandemics, and natural disasters.
- Health systems strengthening: The organization works to improve the capacity and effectiveness of health systems, including access to essential healthcare services, health workforce development, and the strengthening of health infrastructure.
- Disease prevention and control: The WHO provides guidance and support in preventing and controlling various diseases, including communicable diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases), and neglected tropical diseases.
- Maternal and child health: The WHO focuses on improving maternal and child health outcomes, ensuring access to quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services, promoting immunization, and reducing child mortality rates.
- Health promotion and risk reduction: The WHO works to promote healthy lifestyles, prevent risk factors for diseases (such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity), and address social determinants of health.
The WHO also plays a crucial role in setting global health policies, providing technical guidance to member states, and coordinating international efforts to tackle health challenges. It collaborates with governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to achieve its objectives and works towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to health.
It’s important to note that while the WHO provides guidance and recommendations, it is up to individual countries to implement and adapt these guidelines based on their specific contexts and national health systems.
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