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Best Practices for the Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Prenatal Health Programs

Maternal and Child Health Journal
Rebecca A. Chedid, Karen P. Phillips


Introduction Prenatal health programs provide health education, reproductive care and related services to women. Programs may be administered individually or collaboratively by agencies including public health units, hospitals, health clinics, community and non-governmental organizations. Prenatal health disparities among populations at-risk may be reduced through the provision of accessible health education, services and resources to help women mitigate modifiable risks to pregnancy. Although standardized guidelines inform clinical screening, testing and maternity care, gaps exist regarding the design, implementation and evaluation for comprehensive prenatal health programs. Methods Using a multijurisdictional approach, prenatal health guidance documents released by clinical associations and regional governments across Canada, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland were systematically evaluated to identify standards and practices regarding the design, implementation and evaluation of prenatal health programs. Results Evidence-based, surveillance/monitoring, and expert/stakeholder collaborations were principles affirmed by guidance documents across all jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction described tailored strategies to optimize prenatal health in their respective communities. Divergence between jurisdictions was noted for patient care models and promotion of providers and companions of choice. Discussion A best practices model is proposed describing recommendations as follows: prenatal health programs should be grounded in a theoretical approach, fundamentally woman-centered and designed to address interacting prenatal health determinants across the lifespan. Accessible and inclusive prenatal health care can be achieved through provider training and community stakeholder collaborations. Identification of best practices for prenatal health program design, implementation and evaluation ensures that service standards are harmonized across communities, thereby optimizing maternal and child health.

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