New definition of skilled health personnel

WHO Conceptual Framework on Skilled Health Personnel

Today, FIGO are pleased to announce that in collaboration with WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, ICM, ICN, and IPA, we have published a joint statement on a new definition of skilled health personnel providing care during childbirth.

Definition crucial for better understanding of the care provided during childbirth

This definition of skilled health personnel will improve understanding of the proportion of births attended by competent maternal newborn health professionals. Their presence at childbirth is crucial towards reducing the likelihood of complications for women and their infants.

The 2018 definition goes beyond counting doctors, midwives, and nurses present at the time of childbirth. Ensuring that the person assisting the mother during childbirth is fully competent, is critical for achieving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the aims of the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

Measuring progress

In order to measure progress towards the achievement of the SDGs and aims of the Global Strategy, an accurate definition of such skilled health personnel is needed, but has been lacking until now.  

The 2018 definition and the supporting information published today, are the first steps to informing data collection and measurement to clearly identify which health care providers can be counted as ‘skilled health personnel providing care during childbirth’ measured as the ‘proportion of births delivered by skilled birth attendants’, within the SDG indicator framework.

To define what is meant by ‘competent maternal and newborn health professionals’ helps policy makers push for change, to ensure that women receive high-quality health care during childbirth.

What the definition says
Skilled health personnel are competent maternal and newborn health professionals who are educated, trained and regulated to national and international standards. They are competent in providing and promoting evidence-based, human-rights-based, quality, socio-culturally sensitive and dignified care to women and newborn infants. They are competent in managing labour and delivery to ensure a positive childbirth experience for women. In addition, they are competent in identifying and managing or referring women and / or newborn infants with health complications.

Health professionals
As individuals, skilled health professionals are a part of an integrated team of maternal and newborn health professionals; these include midwives, nurses, obstetricians, paediatricians, and anaesthetists –  together they perform all key life-saving services of maternal and newborn care.


Definition of skilled health personnel providing care during childbirth 

the 2018 joint statement by WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, ICM, ICN, FIGO, IPA