Announcing World Patient Safety Day 2021

Announcing World Patient Safety Day 2021

Monday, 23 August 2021

Theme: Safe maternal and newborn care


With the world still facing the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequities that surfaced as a result, the most vulnerable and marginalized populations are being disproportionately affected not only due to the direct effects of the pandemic and lack of access to vaccines, but also due to the disruption of the most essential health services.

Unfortunately, women and newborns, are amongst these groups. Even before the pandemic, approximately 810 women and 7000 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. 

In response, the theme selected for World Patient Safety Day 2021 is “Safe maternal and newborn care”. 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. Collectively, we can make maternal and newborn safety a global health priority, and we call upon your full cooperation to fulfil this endeavour.


About the campaign

The World Patient Safety Day (WPSD) is an official WHO campaign for all stakeholders in the health care system to work together to improve patient safety. Its a recognition of the scale of avoidable harm linked with medical errors. Established by the World Health Assembly in 2019 through resolution WHA72.6 on “Global action on patient safety” – It is is observed annually on 17 September with the objective of enhancing 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 new theme is selected to shed light on a priority patient safety area where action is needed to reduce avoidable harm in health care and achieve universal health coverage.

It’s also a global commitment made by all WHO member states to recognize patient safety as a key health priority and agreeing to take action to reduce patient harm in health care settings.

It is all about getting global healthcare actors involved in:

  • Scaling up concerted global action on patient safety
  • Putting measures in place to reduce avoidable patient harm
  • Sharing awareness in patient safety in care settings
  • Raising awareness amongst the public and media on key issues relating to patient safety
  • Experimenting new ideas to improve patient safety
  • Helping patients to contribute to their own safety



The incidence of patient harm has become a global public health problem. The number of patients either injured, disabled or killed while accessing unsafe healthcare has become an issue of great concern globally. 
Every second of every day, someone in the world suffers avoidable harm due to receiving unsafe care or have the risk of being harmed while recieving health care. as a result of this, there is a danger that unsafe healthcare will undermine global efforts in setting up Universal Health Coverage. As one patient advocate said at the 72nd World Health Assembly: “ In my country, people are afraid to go to hospitals as they think they will come out in a coffin or with a severe disability. Hospitals and healthcare services stand the risk of being empty if the community does not trust them.”

Why WHO established a World Patient Safety Day

As a part of the global action on patient safety, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on 24th May 2019 to address global patient safety in a concerted manner. Part of this resolution is about adopting 17th September as a World Patient Safety Day.
The WHO thinks that by having a World Patient Safety Day, we can prioritize and address patient safety through global solidarity and concerted action by all countries, stakeholders, patients and international partners. This approach is similar to our Patient Solidarity Day, where we involve whole of society and whole of government in the effort. 

Objectives of World Patient Safety Day

Global observance of WPSD aims to: 
  • Raise awareness of patient safety issues globally
  • Enhance global understanding on the central role of patient safety in achieving Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals 
  • Encourage development of systems and procedures for the elimination of all avoidable health care related harm to patients, and management of risks in health care  
  • Encourage governments to commit to and support the implementation of strategies for ensuring patient safety, managing risks and fostering supportive, learning cultures   
  • Strengthen collaboration and partnerships at global, regional, national and local levels for implementing patient safety strategies and for improving safety of health care 
  • Highlight specific patient safety themes such as Medication Safety, Education and Training in Patient Safety, Reporting and learning systems, Patient Engagement  

Further information