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Patients Meet to Promote Mother and Child Health in the Americas

WHO Collaborating Center Convenes Workshop to Train Patient Safety Advocates

Oak Brook, Illinois, USA - June 11, 2007—Health care and patient advocates from North and South America are gathering outside Chicago today for an intensive three-day workshop focused on efforts to improve patient safety in mother and child health care.

Part of the World Health Organization (WHO) World Alliance for Patient Safety - Patients for Patient Safety initiative, the solutions-driven workshop aims to create a network of patient-advocacy leaders who can help expand opportunities for patient involvement in efforts to improve care.

The Regional Workshop on Patients for Patient Safety - Patient Safety Solutions will offer participants training in the design, implementation and evaluation of patient safety solutions that they can use to influence health policies and programs in their own countries and regions. Specific workshop segments will be devoted to a broad review of mother and child safety initiatives, analysis of maternal deaths, kernicterus (brain damage from neonatal jaundice) in Argentina, and lessons from the experiences of Parents of Infants and Children with Kernicterus (PICK).

"This workshop offers opportunities to create a patient safety framework that makes mother and child health a key priority in the Americas," says Karen H. Timmons, president and chief executive officer, Joint Commission International (JCI). "JCI, The Joint Commission, PAHO and WHO's World Alliance for Patient Safety are pleased to bring together these patient leaders to advance safety solutions."

"The patient must be at the center of all health care encounters," says Dennis S. O'Leary, M.D., president, The Joint Commission. "This workshop will help both patient advocates and health care professionals better meet that aim in providing mother and child services."

"Incorporating a patient perspective into interventions is crucial for the success of patient safety efforts," said Jonas Gonseth, PAHO expert on patient safety. "This workshop provides an important space for patient-led projects, which PAHO is will support through technical cooperation in its member countries."

Among workshop participants are patient advocates from North and South America who have personally experienced health care errors. Sue Sheridan is leading the Patients for Patient Safety program of the World Alliance for Patient Safety, and the cofounder of the U.S. group PICK. Sheridan's son Cal suffered kernicterus due to an error in 1995, and her husband Pat died in 2002 from spinal cancer after a break-down in communication caused a significant delay in telling the couple that his tumor was malignant. Evangelina Vásquez from Mexico has a son, Uriel, who also suffered kernicterus due to a series of health care errors. Alfonso Maldonado from Peru lost his son Augusto because of misdiagnosis and delayed treatment of cancer. Professional health care participants include Jorge Martínez, director of the Department of Pediatrics at Argentina's Universidad del Salvador, and Gerardo Cabrera-Meza, director of international neonatology at Texas Children's Hospital.

"Many of us have had our lives changed by failures in health care, but the experience has led us to become advocates for solutions to patient safety problems," says Sheridan. "This workshop will help us sharpen our advocacy skills and expand our networks to broaden our efforts throughout the Americas."

The workshop is being organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), with the participation of PICK, Consumers Advancing Patient Safety, and The Joint Commission and Joint Commission International, which administer the WHO Collaborating Center for Patient Safety Solutions.


The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Alliance for Patient Safety is a WHO program launched in 2004. The Alliance, chaired by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom, addresses 10 major action areas:

Further information on the work of the Alliance is available at WHO's web site.

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve the safety and quality of care provided to the public through the provision of health care accreditation and related services that support performance improvement in health care organizations. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits nearly 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, including more than 8,000 hospitals and home care organizations, and more than 6,300 other health care organizations that provide long term care, assisted living, behavioral health care, laboratory and ambulatory care services. The Joint Commission also accredits health plans, integrated delivery networks, and other managed care entities. In addition, The Joint Commission provides certification of disease-specific care programs, primary stroke centers, and health care staffing services. An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission here.

Joint Commission International (JCI) was established in 1997 as a division of Joint Commission Resources, Inc. (JCR), a private, not-for-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission. Through international accreditation, consultation, publications and education programs, JCI extends The Joint Commission's mission worldwide by helping to improve the quality of patient care by assisting international health care organizations, public health agencies, health ministries and others evaluate, improve and demonstrate the quality of patient care and enhance patient safety in more than 60 countries.

For more information please contact: In Washington, D.C. , PAHO/WHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459, or Charlene D. Hill, The Joint Commission, Tel: +1 630.792.5175.