More than 2,300 delegates from 77 countries packed into the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) World Congress 2017 (20-22 March). More than 155 internationally renowned experts presented at the annual event on a wide range of issues affecting women’s healthcare globally. The cutting edge scientific programme, which featured daily plenaries, lectures and breakfast sessions, saw experts share the latest developments, current challenges and new technologies in their fields.
Opening her first Congress as President of the RCOG, Professor Lesley Regan said many of the priorities that she wants to achieve during her time in office are reflected in the Congress programme. “Our commitment to providing high-quality care across the life course, from adolescence, through the reproductive and childbearing era, and then to women’s post-reproductive years, will be reflected in the enormous diversity of topics represented over the next three days.”
Delegates flocked to Atul Gawande’s presentation, The checklist effect: From surgery to childbirth, which detailed his team’s involvement in developing the World Health Organisation’s Safe Childbirth Checklist. The Checklist was developed to address the major causes of maternal death (haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and hypertensive disorders), intrapartum-related stillbirths (inadequate intrapartum care) and neonatal deaths (birth asphyxia, infection and complications related to prematurity). The BetterBirth Trial was launched to test the effect of the Checklist on maternal and newborn practices and outcomes in Uttar Pradesh, India. The results of the trial will be published soon.
Sadia Khan’s presentation Smart fetal surveillance: An innovative mHealth (mobile health) solution for reducing infant mortality in developing countries, also drew attention. Khan explained how e-health fetal monitoring is working to reduce stillbirths and early neonatal deaths, particularly in developing countries where basic health units are not fully equipped with diagnostic tools and medical expertise is lacking. The system operates by recording the fetus’ heartbeat on a sound card which is then inserted into a laptop or smartphone. The signals can then be sent to a doctor as an electronic medical record and they can respond with feedback.
During a session on Violence Against Women, RCOG Vice President for Education, Professor Janice Rymer, presented Female Genital Mutilation – are the UK changes making any difference? She revealed that three million girls across the world have their genitals cut every year, and that this often leads to infection, septicaemia, haemorrhage and death. Professor Rymer says UK interventions to put an end to the practice have not been sufficient.
Mitchell Besser was a standout among speakers for his presentation, Mothers-to-mothers to be: How we changed the impact of HIV on African women and children. He used this international event to explain how his project, mothers2mothers (m2m) is helping to significantly decrease rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa, while employing local mothers living with HIV to provide education and support to HIV-positive pregnant women, new mothers and their families.
Other Congress highlights included the live streaming of laparoscopic surgeries from the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town, a debate on why abortion care remains out of reach for women, and the bestowal of the RCOG Fellowship Award on Her Excellency, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Keyatta. The First Lady received this honorary accolade for her efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality in Kenya.
On receiving the Fellowship she said: “Over the last couple of days, there has been robust dialogue around the question of women and girls’ health. We have outlined the issues, identified gaps and opportunities in healthcare systems, elaborated on targeted interventions and renewed our shared commitment to addressing the myriad of complex issues related to women and girls’ health. I know that these conversations will continue to catalyse diverse action on the part of numerous stakeholders.”
The RCOG World Congress 2018 will take place in Singapore from 22 to 24 March. For more information, please visit www.rcog2018.com
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The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.