Journal Article

Exploring provider perspectives on respectful maternity care in Kenya: “Work with what you have”

Background
Promoting respect and dignity is a key component of providing quality care during facility-based childbirth and is becoming a critical indicator of maternal health care. Providing quality care requires essential skills and attitudes from healthcare providers, as their role is central to optimizing interventions in maternity settings.

Methods
In 13 facilities in Kenya we conducted a mixed methods, pre-post study design to assess health providers’ perspectives of a multi-component intervention (the Heshima project), which aimed to mitigate aspects of disrespect and abuse during facility-based childbirth. Providers working in maternity units at study facilities were interviewed using a two-part quantitative questionnaire: an interviewer-guided section on knowledge and practice, and a self-administered section focusing on intrinsic value systems and perceptions. Eleven distinct composite scores were created on client rights and care, provider emotional wellbeing, and work environments. Bivariate analyses compared pre- and post-scores. Qualitative in-depth interviews focused on underlying factors that affected provider attitudes and behaviors including the complexities of service delivery, and perceptions of the Heshima interventions.

Results
Composite scales were developed on provider knowledge of client rights (Chronbach α = 0.70), client-centered care (α = 0.80), and HIV care (α = 0.81); providers’ emotional health (α = 0.76) and working relationships (α = 0.88); and provider perceptions of management (α = 0.93), job fairness (α = 0.68), supervision (α = 0.84), promotion (α = 0.83), health systems (α = 0.85), and work environment (α = 0.85). Comparison of baseline and endline individual item scores and composite scores showed that provider knowledge of client rights and practice of a rights-based approach, treatment of clients living with HIV, and client-centered care during labor, delivery, and postnatal periods improved (p < 0.001). Changes in emotional health, perceptions of management, job fairness, supervision, and promotion seen in composite scores did not directly align with changes in item-specific responses. Qualitative data reveal health system challenges limit the translation of providers’ positive attitudes and behaviors into implementation of a rights-based approach to maternity care.

Conclusion
Behavior change interventions, central to promoting respectful care, are feasible to implement, as seen in the Heshima experience, but require sustained interaction with health systems where providers practice. Provider emotional health has the potential to drive (mis)treatment and affect women’s care.