Maternal Health Leaders Call for New Global Commitment to Eliminating Preventable Maternal Deaths

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By: Sarah Blake, MHTF consultant

In “Ending preventable maternal deaths: the time is now” published today in The Lancet Global Health, a group of maternal health experts call on the global health community to not only commit to ending preventable maternal deaths, but to set a specific timeline for doing so. Citing the maternal health manifesto adopted at the 2013 Global Maternal Health Conference, the authors lay out a series of priorities for the development framework that will follow the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The authors suggest that“An ambitious but realistic global target is to reduce maternal mortality ratios to less than 50 per 100 000 live births by 2035.” Along with this target, the authors propose new approaches to both measuring and achieving progress. From the article:

“This method would help to focus planning for maternal survival. For all countries with estimated maternal mortality ratios of less than 400 in 2010, the goal would be a steady progression past a series of 5 year milestones to reach the global target. The expectation that every country would cross one milestone within every 5 year interval will provide a method to measure each country’s progress, and will also contribute to global progress. The 5 year milestones for countries with high initial maternal mortality ratios (>400) would be individually designed and tracked. Countries with an estimated maternal mortality ratio of less than 100 would be expected to move to lower values according to defined milestones, but with a focus on internal subpopulations whose maternal mortality is higher than the national rate. Strategies to implement targeted interventions to reduce maternal mortality need to address more than the clinical causes of death—they should respond to changing demographics, meet the specific needs of women for reproductive health, and address contextual features such as challenges caused by changes in health-care systems. These challenges include financial incentives, the effects of decentralisation, the role of the private sector, and urbanisation. Universal access to high-quality health services, including family planning and information and services for reproductive health (especially for vulnerable and at-risk populations), should be put at the centre of efforts to achieve the vision of ending maternal deaths.”

For more on the ongoing planning process for the post-2015 development agenda, visit the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda final report.