Identifying Challenges to Quality in Preconception Health Care among Women of Reproductive Age in Lipa City, Batangas
Background. Preconception care is a set of interventions that aim to identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management. These interventions emphasize factors that must be addressed before conception or early in pregnancy in order to have maximal impact. Preconception health care is a key intervention in improving maternal and neonatal health care. Identification of specific needs of population-at-risk remains crucial in developing quality preconception health care programs in the Philippines.
Objectives. This paper: 1) described the preconception health status of women of reproductive age in selected communities in Lipa City Batangas; 2) identified the perceived preconception needs of women of reproductive age in selected communities; 3) determined the significant challenges to the provision of appropriate preconception health care; and 4) provided recommendations to address the gaps and challenges.
Methods. A total of 4,357 women of reproductive age were interviewed using a preconception checklist tool previously developed by researchers from Peking University (China), American University of Beirut (Lebanon), and University of the Philippines Manila (Philippines). Eleven Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) on various aspects of preconception health care were conducted among women of reproductive age from communities and workplaces (industries/factories, government offices, schools, entertainment centers, health centers). Thematic analyses of the data from the FGDs were performed. Recommendations for overcoming identified challenges to quality services were presented.
Results. There are salient gaps in preconception health care, particularly in micronutrient intake, immunization status, family planning and infectious diseases screening in both urban and rural communities. The study also showed major gaps in medical and educational services, particularly for adolescents.
Conclusion. Health and social challenges in the
preconception health care delivery system for women of reproductive age in Lipa City Batangas were identified, including the prioritization of at-risk groups and development of strategies to address preconception health care gaps in both urban and rural settings. The alarming increasing rate of teenage pregnancy must be given highest priority with integration of safe and healthy pregnancy in the curriculum. The development of programs for men and women recognizes that parenthood is a partnership. To guarantee a successful program on preconception health care services, government must utilize an inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach with the participation of various stakeholders and sectors, both government and private. The engagement of women of reproductive age in planning provides a dynamic feedback for the relevance of the planned programs.