Improve Maternal and Newborn Health and Nutrition

Providing quality healthcare and nutritional support for all women and babies is a small price to pay for a healthy generation.

In spite of substantial advances in maternal and newborn health over recent decades, roughly 300,000 girls and women still die due to pregnancy related complications every year. At present, there is widespread agreement within the global community on what needs to be done to prevent these deaths and improve the health and wellbeing of women and babies. Clinical interventions and health services need to be delivered across a continuum of care – before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and following pregnancy. There must also be an enhanced focus on the role that nutrition plays in saving lives and safeguarding the health of women and newborns.

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  • Every two minutes, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth – the majority of these deaths are preventable

  • Poor nutrition among pregnant women accounts for 800,000 newborn deaths annually

  • Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of death among 15-19 year olds globally

  • The number of stillbirths that occur annually – 98% in developing countries

  • If we meet the need for modern contraception and provide all pregnant women and newborns with quality care, maternal deaths would decrease by 67% and newborn deaths would decrease by 77%

  • Every dollar spent on scaling-up nutrition interventions for pregnant women and children yields $16 in returns

Investing in girls and women creates a ripple effect that yields multiple benefits, not only for individual women, but also for families, communities, and countries. Investments in maternal, newborn, and reproductive health not only save lives, they increase both social and economic benefits for developing nations. Given the important role girls and women play in contributing to national and global economies, ensuring they are healthy makes them more likely to save, invest, and help their societies thrive.

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Solutions in Action

  • Improving Midwifery Care in Cambodia
    Case Study

    Improving Midwifery Care in Cambodia

    Improving Midwifery Care in Cambodia

    Maternal and newborn mortality has been falling significantly in Cambodia since 2005. Key to this decline was a notable investment in midwifery education and a marked increase in the number of midwives providing antenatal care and deliveries within an expanding primary healthcare network. Ensuring increased access to quality maternity care was led by the government, with the support of a range of partners, including NGOs and UN organizations. Access to improved primary healthcare, with a focus on midwifery, was also seen across the health system, including the public and private health sector. In 2010, skilled birth attendance in a facility accounted for 55% of all births, and home deliveries with a midwife for 16%. Pre-service education and in-service training for midwives has been prioritized and all health centers have at least one primary midwife.   Learn more >>
  • Pakistan’s Lady Health Worker Program
    Case Study

    Pakistan’s Lady Health Worker Program

    Pakistan’s Lady Health Worker Program

    With many urban-rural disparities and a drastic imbalance in the health workforce, including insufficient numbers of health workers, nurses, and skilled birth attendants, through the Prime Minister’s Programme for Family Planning and Primary Care, Pakistan created the Lady Health Worker cadre in 1994. Lady Health Workers must be recommended by the community, have at least eight years of schooling, and undergo extensive training. The goal of this program is to equip female health workers with the skills to provide essential primary health services in rural and urban slum communities. External evaluation has shown substantially better health indicators in the population served by Lady Health Workers. In the Punjab province, for example, Lady Health Workers have played a critical role in reducing maternal mortality rates. A 2006 study of the region revealed a drop in maternal mortality from 350 to 250 per 1000,000 live births. Infant mortality also declined from 250 to 79 per 100,000 live births. Learn More >>
  • Scaling Up Breastfeeding in Bangladesh
    Case Study

    Scaling Up Breastfeeding in Bangladesh

    Scaling Up Breastfeeding in Bangladesh

    Breastfeeding has been widely lauded for enduring health benefits for infants and their mothers. In the past six to eight years, exclusive breastfeeding in Bangladesh has increased by 13%. Bangladesh’s success has been attributed to community mobilization and media outreach around the importance of breastfeeding, along with comprehensive health worker training. This training serves to create a support system at health facilities that provide a vital resource for positive nutritional education. Bangladesh also utilized strategic technical experience of various stakeholders — including civil society, UNICEF, and the Alive and Thrive initiative — incorporated existing evidence and best practices, and worked across sectors to create uniform messaging and practice around breastfeeding promotion. Learn More >>
  • The Impact of Legal Reform of Abortion in South Africa
    Case Study

    The Impact of Legal Reform of Abortion in South Africa

    The Impact of Legal Reform of Abortion in South Africa

    In 1996, abortion was legalized in South Africa, after which there was a significant decrease in infections and hospitalizations for women who had undergone unsafe abortion, especially younger women. A review of national data indicates that abortion mortality dropped by more than 90% between 1994 and 2001. Learn more >>

Policy Asks

  • Guarantee access to quality, affordable care before, during, and after pregnancy — inclusive of midwifery and obstetric care, modern contraception, safe abortion, and post-abortion care.

  • Support the prevention, screening, and treatment of common challenges during pregnancy such as obesity, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • Address barriers to healthcare, including user fees, poor infrastructure, and a lack of essential supplies, medicines, and micronutrients.

  • Include girls, young people, and women in the design and implementation of maternal and newborn health and nutrition programs as context experts.

  • Promote widespread training and education for health workers, women, and community members focused on maternal and child nutrition, counseling, and support.

  • Promote and provide women access to nutritious food, counseling on proper nutritional practices such as breastfeeding, and critical micronutrients.

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