Calling for an Integrated Approach to Maternal and Newborn Health: Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality

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By: Amy Boldosser-Boesch, Interim President and CEO, Family Care International

Next week at the 68th World Health Assembly, the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) Working Group — led by WHO in partnership with Family Care International (FCI), the Maternal Health Task Force, UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID, the Maternal Child Survival Program, and the White Ribbon Alliance — will launch its much-anticipated report, Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM). For FCI and our partners, this report presents an important opportunity to highlight the critical linkages between the health of a woman and that of her newborn baby.

One of the core strategies recommended in the EPMM paper is integration of maternal and newborn service delivery, with a particular focus on the mother-baby relationship. FCI has been a long-standing advocate for integrated care for women and newborns. A research study we conducted with Aga Khan University identified the many interventions that affect the health of both a woman and her newborn.  These research findings underscored the many important ways that maternal, fetal, and newborn health are strongly interconnected.

More recently, in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women and the KEMRI-CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration, FCI conducted research in Kenya to document the immediate and longer-term effects of maternal death on children, households, and communities. The consequences of a mother’s death, the study found, are devastating. The first result, far too often, is the death of the newborn, another tragic sign of maternal-neonatal interconnection. But maternal deaths also cause other profound and long-term social and economic harms, as surviving daughters are forced to leave school, families suffer under huge medical and funeral costs and lost income, households break down, and communities lose the presence and contributions of some of their most productive members. The tragic costs of a maternal death, for newborns and their families, are highlighted in the study’s title, A Price Too High to Bear.

Collectively, these studies make a compelling case for the creation of stronger linkages between health services for women and for their newborns. Together, the maternal health and newborn health communities must work to ensure that research, policies, health services, and advocacy all support an integrated approach to maternal and newborn survival — one that helps finally to put an end to the preventable deaths of women and their babies.

This blog also appears at The FCI Blog.