Maternal Health Task Force

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The Lancet Maternal Health Series: Key Takeaways

By: Sarah Hodin, Project Coordinator II, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The Lancet Maternal Health Series published in September 2016 contains six papers highlighting the importance of improving access to high quality maternal health care for all women across the globe. The series also includes three commentaries from experts in the field that summarize some of the key takeaways.

Maternal health: Time for a radical reappraisal

In their commentary, “Maternal health: Time for a radical reappraisal,” Audrey Ceschia, Editor at The Lancet Public Health, and Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, suggest that “progress in maternal health is fragile and non-linear.” The field has experienced setbacks in the midst of humanitarian crises including conflict-induced displacement and the Zika virus epidemic. The authors request that readers consider the series “in the context of a much larger health agenda for women and prospective mothers” and argue that “access to modern contraception is a critical foundation for maternal and child health.” They also point out that self-harm is the leading cause of death among women ages 15-24 around the world, illustrating the need for greater attention to women’s mental health issues. Finally, Ceschia and Horton urge the global maternal health community to approach the Sustainable Development Goals with a recognition of the linkages between them; for example, “between maternal health and education, maternal health and gender equity, and maternal health and poverty reduction.”

Quality, equity and dignity for women and babies

In “Quality, equity and dignity for women and babies,” Mary Kinney of Saving Newborn Lives, Amy Boldosser-Boesch of the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health and Betsy McCallon of the White Ribbon Alliance emphasize the need for integration: “A coordinated, integrated ‘continuum of care’ approach that optimizes the health of the mother-baby dyad is required to fully maximize the potential benefits.” The authors commend the 2015 Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference, the Every Newborn Action Plan and Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality for their efforts to integrate maternal and newborn health care. They also express hope that the World Health Organization’s new quality of care framework “will provide opportunities to engage women and local stakeholders in the process of defining quality of care.”

Implementation and aspiration gaps: Whose view counts?

In her commentary, “Implementation and aspiration gaps: Whose view counts?” Lynn Freedman, Director of the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, laments the “dangerous disconnect between the way the global health community has framed problems, proposed strategies and pushed solutions, and the lived experiences of people and providers.” The findings from the Series indicate that in an effort to satisfy external donor demands, aid-dependent countries often “adopt the outward-facing norms (eg. policies, indicators, curricula) … but do not change the fundamental context or dynamics of health services.” As a result, the health needs of people on the ground are neglected. Continued progress in research, programs and policy advocacy is essential to address the “mismatch between burden and coverage” and close gaps in quality of maternal health care.

Summaries from the MHTF blog series

Paper 1: Diversity and Divergence: The Dynamic Burden of Poor Maternal Health

Paper 2: Beyond Too Little, Too Late and Too Much, Too Soon

Paper 3: The Scale, Scope, Coverage, and Capability of Childbirth Care

Paper 4: Drivers of Maternity Care in High-Income Countries

Paper 5: External Shocks and Health System Innovations

Paper 6: Quality Maternity Care for Every Woman, Everywhere

Watch the video from “What Next? Putting The Lancet Maternal Health Series Into Action,” a discussion co-hosted by the MHTF at the Wilson Center as a part of the Advancing Dialogue on Maternal Health Series.

Access the commentaries and papers from The Lancet Maternal Health Series.

Subscribe to stay updated on the newest global maternal health research.

Categories: The Lancet Maternal Health Series

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