World Patient Safety Day – established by the World Health Assembly in 2019 through resolution WHA72.6 on “Global action on patient safety” – is observed annually on 17 September.
Objectives of the day are to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in health care safety, and promote global action to prevent and reduce avoidable harm in health care. Each year, a new theme is selected to shed light on a priority patient safety area where action is needed to reduce avoidable harm in health care and achieve universal health coverage. Considering the significant burden of harm women and newborns are exposed to due to unsafe care, this year’s World Patient Safety Day is dedicated to the need to prioritize and address safety in maternal and newborn care, particularly around the time of childbirth, when most harm occurs. This is especially important in the context of disruption of health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further compounded the situation.
Since women’s experiences during childbirth are also affected by issues of gender equity and violence, World Patient Safety Day highlights the important notion of respectful care and its linkages with safety. The problem has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the disruption of essential health services due to broken supply chains, barriers to accessing care and a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. Since maternity care is also affected by issues of gender equity and violence, women's experiences during childbirth can be positive and empowering or in other cases inflict emotional damage and trauma.