Increasing skilled birth attendance through midwifery workforce management


Correspondence to: Dr E. Rosskam, Center for Social Epidemiology, Los Angeles, California, USA. E-mail:


Policy makers and development partners struggle to help find solutions to the high rates of maternal and newborn mortality in many low and middle income countries. Increasing access to midwives and health workers skilled in midwifery can help to alleviate the situation. We aim to contribute to the debate on strategies to increase access to skilled birth attendance by sharing our views, illustrated with as yet unpublished case stories that were recognized with Awards of Excellence at the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, 2011, held in Bangkok, Thailand.

The correlation between access to skilled birth attendance and the density of midwives, nurses and doctors has been well established in the literature. How to cost-effectively scale up skilled birth attendance in low and middle income countries, however, remains a matter of debate. This article is based on a review of success stories in midwifery workforce management and innovations in increasing population access to midwives and other health workers skilled in midwifery. We draw on case stories from three low resource settings: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nigeria.

Addressing the problem of access to skilled birth attendance, some countries are making good progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Unshakeable political will and financial commitment are fundamental. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.