World Patient Safety Day was established in 2019 by the Seventy-second World Health Assembly through the
adoption of resolution WHA72.6 – “Global action on patient safety”. The Day is firmly grounded in the
fundamental principle of medicine – first do no harm. World Patient Safety Day builds on a series of successful
annual global ministerial summits on patient safety which began in London and Bonn in 2016 and 2017,
respectively. The overall objectives of the Day are to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase
public engagement in health care safety, and promote global action to prevent and reduce avoidable harm
in health care. Each year a theme is selected to shed light on a priority area critical to patient safety and
ultimately the achievement of universal health coverage.
The theme selected for World Patient Safety Day 2021 is “Safe maternal and newborn care”, due to the
significant burden of risks and harm women and newborns are exposed to when receiving unsafe care during
childbirth. Despite the significant progress made in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality, the SDG 3
targets are still far from being achieved. The issue has been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,
which has led to the disruption of essential health services due to breaks in supply chains, women’s inability
to access care, and the shortage of skilled health professionals. Even before the pandemic, approximately
810 women and 6700 newborns died daily, with the causes occurring mainly around the time of childbirth.
About 2 million babies were also stillborn every year, with over 40% occurring during labour. Most of these
deaths and stillbirths are avoidable through the provision of safe and quality care by skilled health care
professionals working in supportive environments. Since maternity care is also affected by issues of gender
equity and violence, women’s experiences during childbirth have the potential to either empower or to inflict
damage and emotional trauma on them. Therefore, this year’s campaign slogan – “Act now for safe and
respectful childbirth!” – calls on all stakeholders to accelerate the actions necessary for ensuring safe and
respectful childbirth. It is envisaged that the momentum generated by World Patient Safety Day 2021 will
revamp stakeholders’ efforts to achieve universal health coverage for all women and newborns and
ultimately the maternal and newborn SDG 3 targets.
- Raise global awareness on the issues of maternal and newborn safety, particularly during childbirth.
- Engage multiple stakeholders and adopt effective and innovative strategies to improve maternal and
- Call for urgent and sustainable actions by all stakeholders to scale up efforts, reach the unreached
and ensure safe maternal and newborn care, particularly during childbirth.
- Advocate the adoption of best practices at the point of care to prevent avoidable risks and harm to
all women and newborns during childbirth.
Working together to make childbirth safer
The global campaign for World Patient Safety Day 2021 proposes a wide range of activities to be implemented
on and around 17 September 2021, including organization of advocacy and technical events, lighting up of
iconic monuments, landmarks and public places in orange (the signature mark of the campaign), and the
launch of the World Patient Safety Day 2021–2022 goals. WHO encourages all stakeholders to join the global
campaign to promote collective efforts for safe maternal and newborn care, particularly during childbirth.
For more information about the campaign, please visit the WHO World Patient Safety Day 2021 event page