Promoting healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth is a goal of all European health care systems. Despite progress in recent decades, mothers and their babies are still very much at risk during the perinatal period, which covers pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum.
The European Perinatal Health Report released by the EURO-PERISTAT project is the most comprehensive report on the subject to date and takes a new approach to health reporting. Instead of comparing countries on single indicators like infant mortality (the 'report card' or 'league table' approach), the report paints a fuller picture by presenting data about mortality, low birthweight and preterm birth alongside data about health care and other factors that can affect the outcome of pregnancy. It also illustrates differences in the ways that data are collected, and explains how these can affect comparisons between countries.
Outcomes differ widely between the countries of Europe. No country tops every list. Understanding the reasons behind these differences can provide the insights needed for prevention and improvement.
Obstetric practice varies widely in Europe. This raises questions about what level of obstetric intervention is the most appropriate.
The 280-page report was a major feat of collaboration between researchers and official statisticians in Europe. It contains data on EURO-PERISTAT indicators for the year 2004 from 25 participating EU member states and Norway. It also contains data from three other European projects: Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE), European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT), and the European Information System to Monitor Short and Long-Term Morbidity to Improve Quality of Care and Patient Safety for Very-Low-Birth-Weight Infants (EURONEOSTAT).
There is a need for better data and a system for continuous reporting. To improve perinatal health, we need the right tools to assess problems and their causes. We also need to monitor the impact of policy initiatives over time. This report is a first step towards providing Europe with such a tool.
Data to construct the EURO-PERISTAT core indicators are available in almost all countries, but there are still many gaps. Many countries need to improve the range and quality of the data they collect. Many countries have little or no data on maternal morbidity, care during pregnancy, and the associations between social factors and health outcomes.
This report is a snapshot for the year 2004. It needs to be repeated to build up a picture of changes over time. EURO-PERISTAT aims to develop sustainable perinatal health reporting. The full value of having common and comparable indicators in Europe will be realised when this exercise becomes continuous and assessment of progress is possible.
The European Perinatal Health Report "Better statistics for better health for pregnant women and their babies" is available as a PDF.
Funding support by the European Commission has been provided by the Directorate General for Health and Consumers and the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers
Materials provided by INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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