Burnet Institute researchers have played a major role in building the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘living guidelines’ for maternal and perinatal health, to respond rapidly to new evidence for improving health of women and newborns.
Burnet researcher Dr Joshua Vogel is the lead author of a new study published today in BMJ Global Health, which describes how WHO’s guidelines can be updated quickly when new evidence in maternal and perinatal health comes to light.
This work, conducted in collaboration with international researchers at WHO and the Cochrane Library, was aimed at shortening the timeline to incorporate new evidence into practice guidelines.
“The volume of evidence in our field is increasing exponentially – it is extremely challenging for organizations like WHO to ensure guidelines are always up-to-date,” Dr Vogel said.
“With living guidelines, recommendations are rapidly updated when the evidence has changed.”
The study describes an innovative combination of digital literature surveillance, rapid updating of systematic reviews and virtual consultations with living guideline panels, all of which have allowed faster uptake of new evidence into guidelines for health workers.
Burnet Institute Co-Director, Maternal and Child Health, Professor Caroline Homer AO was one of the experts on WHO’s living guideline panels, and emphasised that getting guidelines updated rapidly is a key step to improving quality of maternal and newborn care.
“Improving the health of mothers and babies depends on having the latest evidence in the hands of health workers globally,” Professor Homer said.
Through this research, the living guidelines approach has been successfully applied to 25 WHO maternal and perinatal recommendations, including WHO’s recommendation on tranexamic acid for the treatment of postpartum haemorrhage and WHO’s recommendations on uterotonics for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage.
These recommendations are critical to effective prevention and management of postpartum haemorrhage, one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide.