BACKGROUND: The maternal mortality rate in Lao PDR (Laos) is still the highest in Southeast Asia, at 197 per 100,000 live births. Antenatal care (ANC) could contribute to maternal and child mortality reduction. The quality of ANC service remains inadequate and little information is available on the quality of health education and counseling services of health providers in Laos. This study aims to gain insight into the perceptions of stakeholders on both supply and demand sides of public ANC services in Laos and evidence for recommendations to improve the quality of ANC services.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 participants from different stakeholder groups; on the demand side, couples with a currently pregnant woman and mothers with children under one year of age and a family member; and on the supply side, health providers, managers, policy makers of the Ministry of Health, and development partners. The interviews were voice recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis by open and thematic coding, using the MAXQDA software program.
RESULTS: All respondents reported that the number of pregnant women who visit ANC services has increased. However, an analysis of the supply side identified issues related to the quality of ANC that need to be improved in the areas of facilities, human resources, privacy and confidentiality, providers' behavior, attitudes, and ineffective communication skills when it comes to providing health education and counseling to pregnant women and their family members. The analysis of the demand side mainly emphasized the issues of providers' behavior, attitude, communication and unequal treatment, and the lack of privacy. Both sides also suggested solutions to the problems, such as training, effective materials, rewarding good role models, and building a feedback system.
CONCLUSION: The number of public ANC services has increased, but both supply and demand sides experienced challenges with the quality of ANC. All respondents proposed possible solutions to improve quality of ANC service in public health facilities in Laos.
- Antenatal care (ANC)
- Quality improvement
- Stakeholders' perspectives
- Supply and demand sides