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Harvard testing checklist for safer deliveries

The Boston Globe, July 29, 2011

When used effectively, checklists have been shown to reduce the rate of infection and pneumonia in intensive care units. They help doctors prevent complications and even deaths in surgery. Atul Gawande, MD, a writer and Brigham and Women's surgeon, has done as much as anyone to popularize the use of checklists in those settings. Now he is working with Harvard colleague Jonathan Spector, MD, a neonatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, to investigate what checklists could do for one of the world's more dangerous arenas for care: the delivery room in developing countries. For two years, the researchers have worked with the World Health Organization to develop a checklist targeting avoidable complications that lead to high numbers of deaths among mothers and newborns. Spector said they have been encouraged by preliminary tests at 17 birth sites in countries including China, Ghana, and Pakistan. Now Harvard School of Public Health researchers will begin more fully testing the checklist in 120 hospitals in India, with the help of $14.1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.