A new report, commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, and entitled “Maternal Health from 1985-2013: Hopeful Progress and Enduring Challenges,” traces the history of global efforts to define priorities, mobilize action and measure progress toward reducing the impact of maternal mortality. The paper, by independent consultant Tim Thomas, highlights major moments in policy, funding, programming, and clinical and social science research over the nearly 30 years since the World Health Organization (WHO) first published maternal mortality estimates and The Lancet published the groundbreaking article “Maternal mortality – a neglected tragedy: Where is the M in MCH?”
The paper explores the progress and challenges within the field, focusing specifically on developments targeted on maternal health. These include the implications of 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, and the fifth Millenium Development Goal, which seeks to cut the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. The article also features the 2007, 2010, and 2013 Women Deliver conferences as landmark moments in the field for increased global participation and interest and new commitments from governments and donors.
The paper ends on a hopeful note, pointng out that recent findings suggest that with appropriate policies and sufficient investment, the eradication of preventable maternal mortality is within reach. Yet, challenges to progress 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.
Read the full article here.