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Parallel worlds: an ethnography of care in an Afghan maternity hospital

Arnold, R., van Teijlingen, E., Ryan, K. and Holloway, I. (2018) Parallel worlds: an ethnography of care in an Afghan maternity hospital. Social Science & Medicine, 216. pp. 33-40. ISSN 0277-9536

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.09.010


Aspirations of quality, equitable and respectful care for all women in childbirth have, so far, been unrealised. Sub-optimal care remains the norm in many settings despite decades of substantial investment, the introduction of evidence-based policies, procedures and training programmes. Improving the standard of institutional care for childbearing women in Afghanistan is an example. This ethnography of a large public Afghan maternity hospital explored the experiences, motivations and constraints of healthcare providers. The aim was to identify barriers and facilitators in the delivery of care. Participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus group discussions were used to gather diverse perspectives on childbirth and care between 2010 and 2012. The influences of the sociocultural setting and political economy on facility-based care are discussed in this paper. Under the surface of this maternity hospital, social norms were in conflict with the principles of biomedicine. Contested areas included the control of knowledge, equity and the primary goal of work. The institutional culture was further complicated by pressure from powerful elites. These unseen values and pressures explain much of the disconnection between policy and implementation, education and the everyday behaviours of healthcare providers. Improving the quality of care and equity in Afghan public maternity hospitals will require political will from all stakeholders to acknowledge these issues and find culturally attuned ways to address them. Furthermore, the notion of competing world-views on healthcare has relevance beyond Afghanistan.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:79317


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