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Developing and applying a 'living guidelines' approach to WHO recommendations on maternal and perinatal health
  1. Joshua P Vogel1,2,
  2. Therese Dowswell3,
  3. Simon Lewin4,5,6,
  4. Mercedes Bonet1,
  5. Lynn Hampson3,
  6. Frances Kellie3,
  7. Anayda Portela7,
  8. Maurice Bucagu7,
  9. Susan L Norris8,
  10. James Neilson3,
  11. Ahmet Metin Gülmezoglu1,
  12. Olufemi T Oladapo1
  1. 1UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Maternal and Child Health Program, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4Division of Health Services and Centre for Informed Health Choices, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa
  6. 6Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
  7. 7Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  8. 8Department of Information, Evidence and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joshua P Vogel; vogeljo{at}


How should the WHO most efficiently keep its global recommendations up to date? In this article we describe how WHO developed and applied a ‘living guidelines’ approach to its maternal and perinatal health (MPH) recommendations, based on a systematic and continuous process of prioritisation and updating. Using this approach, 25 new or updated WHO MPH recommendations have been published in 2017–2018. The new approach helps WHO ensure its guidance is responsive to emerging evidence and remains up to date for end users.

  • clinical guidelines
  • maternal and perinatal health
  • living guidelines
  • living recommendations
  • living systematic reviews
  • recommendations
  • world health organization

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  • Handling editor Soumyadeep Bhaumik

  • Contributors JPV and OTO as the guarantors accept full responsibility for the work and the conduct of the reported survey, had access to the survey data, and controlled the decision to publish. OTO provides technical leadership and is responsible for overall coordination and implementation of maternal and perinatal living guidelines approach at WHO. The corresponding author (JPV) attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), a co-sponsored programme executed by WHO.

  • Competing interests LH, FK and JN are affiliated with Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth, which has received a grant (paid to the University of Liverpool) to work with WHO on this project and to support volunteer authors prepare Cochrane reviews. All other authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement The results of this activity have been made freely available online at the WHO website: