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Today, November 1, marks the official launch of the second phase of the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) now located in Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health. In this next phase, the MHTF will build on progress made thus far and will expand its mission to areas that our partners have identified as critical needs. We are convinced more than ever that preventable maternal mortality and morbidity can be eradicated in our lifetimes. The field has high-level political commitment and a more reliable scientific understanding of what it will take to prevent deaths and disabilities among women worldwide. These forces have created an unprecedented opportunity for progress on which the MHTF will capitalize in its second phase.

As we learn more about what works to improve maternal health outcomes, evidence is emerging on the factors that limit services and impede providers’ capacity to offer quality health care. Now that impressive programs are being implemented to increase both women’s access and utilization of services in high-burden countries (the demand side of the equation), improving health systems’ capacity to offer quality care (the supply side) is the next imperative. The second phase of the MHTF will address this issue within its new Implementation Research objective. The MHTF will also place greater emphasis on strengthening maternal health leadership and technical capacity, especially in India, Nigeria and Ethiopia. And the MHTF will continue to provide a neutral space for scientific debate and consensus building to advance the agenda on critical maternal health issues and to increase access to knowledge, evidence, and information.

With the sustained involvement of our expanding group of partners, the MHTF at Harvard will continue to focus and catalyze the maternal health agenda. A strong implementation research agenda, new education programs, and renewed commitments to improving maternal health worldwide set the stage for phase two of the MHTF. We look forward to working with you, our partners, in the years to come.