A Place for Mothers in the Every Newborn Action Plan

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By: Alison Chatfield, Project Manager, Maternal Health Task Force, Women and Health Initiative; Annie Kearns, Project Manager, Maternal Health Task Force, Women and Health Initiative

The past year has seen a great deal of momentum around the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP). The Plan, which sets global targets and priorities for ending preventable newborn deaths, is now open for consultation from a wide range of stakeholder groups.The maternal health community has an especially important role to play in this process. The Every Newborn Action Plan focuses on ending preventable newborn  deaths, requiring a strong focus on implementing essential interventions for newborns. Just as importantly, however, it means ensuring that mothers’ needs are met and that  the integration between maternal and newborn health is adequately recognized.
Maternal health is already a priority of the Every Newborn Action Plan, and is woven inthroughout the document. This is particularly true of the strategic objectives:
1. Strengthen and invest in care during labor, childbirth and the first day of life
Given that almost three-fourths of maternal and newborn deaths occur during this time period, the Plan prioritizes investment in intrapartum and early postpartum care for both mother and child.
2. Improve the quality of maternal and newborn care
Mothers and newborns are often subject to poor quality of care (e.g. disrespectful interpersonal care; lack of evidence-based clinical practice), and opportunities for stakeholders like training institutions and governmental bodies to work together to improve quality for mothers and newborns should be prioritized.
3. Reach every woman and newborn to reduce inequities 
Despite important progress, the goal of dismantling barriers to care for mothers and newborns remains unrealized. Global progression towards universal health coverage should be leveraged to increase access to high-quality health facilities for all women and children.
4. Harness the power of parents, families, and communities
Many maternal and newborn deaths happen at home without any health care having been sought. Women’s participatory groups, community-based capacity-building activities, and mass media should be used to shift social norms and foster community mobilization around maternal and newborn health.
5. Count every newborn – measurement, program tracking and accountability
Many country-level vital registration systems do not include complete data on all births and deaths. Core indicators regarding quality of maternal and newborn care as well as health outcomes are sorely needed, and countries should integrate them into their national health systems.
The importance of prioritizing maternal health in order to accomplish these strategic actions is clear. This was emphasized last week at a live briefing of the Every Newborn Action Plan, held in Washington, D.C. by USAID/MCHIP, Save the Children and the CORE Group:
  • The Every Newborn Action Plan positions newborns along the continuum of Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health, and integration is one of the guiding principles of the Plan. Therefore, it is critical that mothers are appropriately woven in throughout the document.
  • Similarly, it will be crucial that all allied global health fields, including the maternal and newborn health communities, work closely with each other to harmonize international health system frameworks, intervention packages, and measurement and evaluation tools to enable integration in the post-2015 era.
  • Global, national and local stakeholders are called on to weigh in on the Plan to ensure that the Every Newborn recommendations are appropriate, feasible and valuable to their communities of practice. It is of particular importance to hear from those who will be called on to implement the Plan during this consultation phase.

Consultation on the draft plan is open until February 28, 2014. While this is a critical milestone on the Every Newborn calendar, voices from the maternal health community need to be heard throughout the Every Newborn Action Plan process. As a community, we also need to be active in setting our own global targets. Add your opinion about post-2015 maternal mortality goal setting by contributing to the Maternal Health Task Force’s blog series on maternal health targets.