KOSOVO: Women's Wellness Centers
Maternal and infant mortality rates in Kosovo are among the highest in Europe. As the health care system in Kosovo deteriorated prior to the 1999 war, the number of complications that occurred during pregnancy and delivery reached crisis level. Infant mortality rates in Kosovo rose to a disturbing 35/1000 in 1999. Use of prenatal care was very low, and many women delivered at home. Following the conflict, HealthRight International began working with local partners and with the Kosovo Ministry of Health to rebuild health infrastructure in the region to ensure that all residents, regardless of their background, had access to effective and comprehensive care. In 2002, HealthRight developed a model for and established two Women’s Wellness Centers (WWCs) in Gjilan and Prizren to provide women with comprehensive health care throughout their reproductive lifespan. In 2007, HealthRight established its third WWC in partnership with the Main Family Medical Center in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. All three Centers have since been transferred to the control of the Kosovo Ministry of Health.
A model for comprehensive care
The WWC model emphasizes a comprehensive model of care including strengthened counseling, screening and referral for cervical cancer; screening, diagnosis and management of infections; management of high-risk pregnancies; midwifery care; and reproductive health education. With the establishment of the WWCs, women can now access a wide range of essential services addressing their specific needs.
Building capacity and ensuring sustainability
HealthRight recognizes the importance of working closely with local communities and governments to ensure the long-term sustainability of its projects. At the WWCs, HealthRight hosted training programs and workshops for health providers detailing client-centered care concepts, practical training for reproductive health procedures, human resource management, and strategic planning. A program for midwives trained them to deliver health education and serve as advocates for women’s health. The WWC model itself is designed to train further health professionals in years to come, and to serve as a replicable model for other locations in Kosovo.
Successful transfer to local government
After extensive training, resource development, and management guidance, HealthRight has successfully transferred management of the WWCs to the Kosovar government. The WWCs are now entirely supported by the Kosovo Ministry of Health, and the Pristina WWC alone is able to handle up to 12,000 visitors each year. In an area with some of Europe’s worst women’s health indicators, the WWCs make a tremendous difference by ensuring that women have access to comprehensive, high quality health services.