Maternal Health Task Force


Call for Posts! Social Accountability and Community Mobilization to Improve Maternal Health

By: Judith Helzner, Visiting Scientist, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Katie Millar, Technical Writer, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Premdasji Pinto, ; Sana Contractor,

This post is the first in our new blog series, “Social accountability and community mobilization for maternal health,” hosted with COPASAH and the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ). From holding governments accountable with legislation for maternal deaths to community monitoring of quality of maternal health care, social accountability can be a powerful tool to empower communities to protect the health of women and mothers. Check back here every Monday and Wednesday to learn how social accountability is used around the world.

The Social accountability and community mobilization for maternal health blog series, with contributions from a variety of settings, aims to offer a forum to share examples and evidence of 1) ways in which government officials can be encouraged to make and keep commitments to improving maternal health, 2) participatory approaches to educating and motivating local community members to demand better service and 3) methods of improving monitoring techniques. Creating a forum for these topics is important since—while there is a great deal of work with communities on gender equity, child health, and other topics—applying such program approaches to maternal health is relatively new. As a valued member of our community, we invite you to contribute a post to this series.

Questions and topics for potential guest posts:

  • Public education: How can newspapers, TV, radio and social media raise awareness of both the opinion elites and the general public about the importance of maternal health and how and why it should be prioritized? For example, what is the experience with and value of an online information campaign, training journalists to improve professional coverage and utilizing local community drama?
  • Interventions: A wide variety of programs are being implemented to promote greater citizen participation and official accountability. Examples of interventions, such as the ones below, ideally with some assessment of their results, are welcome.
    1. Public tribunals to one-on-one lobbying with elected decision-makers
    2. Work with village health committees to implement visits to health facilities by trained “mystery clients,” or people who pose as clients and report the quality of service received
    3. Litigation in the courts to a hotline for anonymous phone calls to report and document problems
  • Measurement: Community engagement and social accountability methods are notoriously difficult to evaluate.
    1. What kinds of indicators are being used to assess change? How well are they working, and how comparable are they within and across national boundaries?
    2. Does content analysis of government statements show meaningful progress?
    3. Can budget numbers specific to maternal health really be tracked and indicate quality of care when they fall within a health system’s broad financial picture?
    4. Are the data on numbers of maternal deaths calculated often enough to attribute changes to advocacy and accountability efforts?
  • The facility-community continuum: “Maternal death audits” are often focused on problems that arise within a particular clinic or hospital, but if a woman arrives on the brink of death, the delays in the community represent an important contributing factor to her condition upon admission and to the outcome of her care in that facility.
    1. What tools are used within the health system to document the causes of maternal deaths, and how can bridges be built to explore contributing problems that arose at home or during transport?
    2. How can community engagement and social accountability prevent the first or second delay in getting a woman the care she needs?

You may also feel free to suggest your own topic to our editors.

General guidelines for guest blog posts:

  • Please include the author name, title, and photo
  • Goal: Guest posts should raise questions, discuss lessons learned, analyze programs, describe research, offer recommendations, share resources, or offer critical insight
  • Audience: The audience for this series is health and development professionals working in maternal and newborn health around the world, primarily in resource-constrained settings
  • Tone: Conversational. Doesn’t need to meet professional publication standards
  • Feel free to choose your own style or approach. Q/A as well as lists (e.g. top ten lessons) can often be effective ways of organizing blog posts.
  • Length: 400-600 words
  • No institutional promotion
  • Please include links to sources such as websites and/or publications
  • May also include photos and videos, please include a caption and a credit for the photo

To contribute a post to this series, please contact, Katie Millar, at

Submissions to this series will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis, but preference will be given to posts received by June 1st, 2015.

Posts in this series will be shared on the MHTF blog and may be cross-posted on other leading global health and development blogs.

Categories: Maternal Health Social Accountability and Community Mobilization for Maternal Health Series


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