A new report, “Maternal Health from 1985-2013: Hopeful Progress and Enduring Challenges,” commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, traces the history of global efforts to define priorities, mobilize action and measure progress toward reducing the burden of maternal mortality. The paper and accompanying timelines trace major developments in policy, funding, programming, and clinical and social science research over the nearly 30 years since the WHO first published global maternal mortality estimates, and The Lancet published the seminal article, “Maternal mortality – a neglected tragedy: Where is the M in MCH?” Throughout, the paper explores the developments specifically focused on maternal health in the context of related issues, noting both the implications of both MDG5 and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, which laid out a comprehensive agenda for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. The paper concludes by noting that while recent findings strongly suggest that with appropriate policies and sufficient investments, the eradication of preventable maternal mortality is within reach. However, challenges and uncertainties remain:
Milestones in maternal health are accruing rapidly: 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, 2014 marks the end of the 20-year ICPD Programme of Action, and 2015 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals. There is no doubt that progress has been made in the global goal to eliminate preventable maternal mortality as recent lower MMR estimates have proved. With progress, new and enduring challenges abound. Funding has increased, but its sustainability is unsure; political will is at an all-time high, but conservative political trends threaten it; new technologies are being developed and implemented, but their efficacy and potential for scale remain unproven.