Author Archives: Maternal Health Task force

New advocacy toolkit supports scale-up of essential commodities for women’s and children’s…

Today marked the launch of a new electronic advocacy toolkit, “Scaling Up Lifesaving Commodities for Women, Children, and Newborns.” The toolkit, developed by PATH and Global Health Visions, is a resource designed to support efforts to translate ten recommendations developed by the UN Commission on Lifesaving Commodities into the national action needed to expand access to essential commodities at scale. From PATH: This toolkit provides information about the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities (the Commission), 13 priority commodities, and examples of how its ten recommendations to improve access and availability are being applied globally and within countries. It also provides advocacy resources for utilizing the Commission platform to raise awareness and engage stakeholders in addressing commodity-related gaps in policy. In addition, MCHIP released a new infographic offering an overview of the 13 essential commodities toolkit, which includes medicines and other commodities needed across the continuum of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. It includes three medicines: oxytocin, misoprostol and magnesium sulfate, for addressing postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, the two complications that account for the vast majority of maternal deaths around the world.

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Join IDEAS December 18 for this month’s web seminar: Maternal, perinatal and child death…

This Wednesday, December 18, our colleagues at IDEAS will host this month’s edition of its monthly web seminar series.  This month’s seminar will focus on the issue of maternal, perinatal and child death reviews, drawing  on PMNCH Knowledge Summary #27, which IDEAS developed earlier this year, and covers different types of death review processes, as well as their uses and benefits for efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health in diverse settings.  The web seminar will be led by IDEAS’ Dr. Boika Rechel and use case studies in the discussion of success and challenges for implementing maternal death review processes, different perspectives on the use of death reviews, and recent developments in the area of maternal death reviews and responses. The seminar will begin at 9:30 am GMT on December 18.

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Free maternity services in Kenya: Do they include respectful maternity care?

Guest post by Nora Miller, Research Assistant for the Respectful Maternity Care program at the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health. Unlike many of its neighboring countries, where progress has been made toward the MDG 5 target of increasing the proportion of births with a skilled birth attendant (SBA), Kenya has struggled. In fact, the country experienced a reduction in the percent of births attended by SBAs: from 50% in 1989 to 44% in 2010. This has contributed to an excessively high maternal mortality ratio of 488 deaths per 100,000 live births, leaving it off track  to meet MDG 5 by the  2015 deadline. In an effort to address this issue, the newly elected Jubilee Government included the promise of free maternity services at public facilities in its 2013 campaign and officially abolished user fees in June of this year. 

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Recap of the MHTF-PLOS event: Improving Maternal Health

“Improving Maternal Health: Insights from around the world” was held Wednesday at the Harvard School of Public Health. We want to thank all of those who joined us in person and online. And a special thanks to our panelists: Suneth Buddhika Agampodi, Nosakhare G. Orobaton, and Cynthia K.

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2013 World Malaria Report finds remarkable progress since 2000; ‘room for improvement’ in…

This year’s World Malaria Report finds that both incidence and deaths attributed to malaria have declined sharply since 2000. The report finds that as coverage of critical preventive and treatment measures has expanded over the past decade, global malaria mortality rates have decreased by 45 percent and incidence rates have declined by 29 percent. These measures have contributed to major gains in child survival, with deaths among children under the age of 5 declining by 54 percent since 2000. In fact, according to the report, of an estimated 3.3 million deaths averted since 2000, 3 million have been children living in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest burden of malaria.

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Tech4MH: Avoiding mHealth “pilotitis” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start small

Guest Post by Neal Lesh, Chief Strategy Officer at Dimagi Since 2008, Dimagi has helped organizations in 30 countries set up mobile projects with CommCare, an open source mobile platform that supports frontline workers (FLWs). CommCare is actively being used by over 130 frontline programs across numerous development sectors. One of the most compelling and common uses is to support FLWs who provide vital maternal health services such as registering clients, keeping track of their antenatal care visits, counseling them on the importance of delivery in a facility and calculating due dates of expectant mothers. Thanks to support from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, Dimagi will launch at least 40 new frontline programs in 2013 to use CommCare in India alone, a majority of which are focused on maternal health. Technology is never the whole answer, but can be an essential component of empowering FLWs and improving the maternal health services they offer.

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Reminder: Join the MHTF and PLOS tomorrow to celebrate our second year collection of maternal…

As we wrote last week, the MHTF is looking forward to hosting “Improving maternal health: Insights from around the world,” an event to celebrate our year two collection of new research on maternal health. The event will be held tomorrow, December 11 at the Leadership Studio at the Harvard School of Public Health, from 11:00 am-12:30pm EST. The event will feature presentations by several of the authors featured in the Year 2 collection discussion, as well as discussion of some of the highlights from the series, which had the theme “Maternal health is women’s health.” If you would like to attend the event in person, email Jessica Christian at If you cannot attend in person, we hope that you will tune in to the live stream of the event online, and join the discussion on Twitter: we’ll be live tweeting with hashtag #MHTFPLOS.

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Tech4MH: Complementary global health innovations should be marketed, sold and shipped together…

Guest Post by Meg Wirth, Founder of Maternova Maternova is a social enterprise building out a fast track for commercialization of life-saving technologies for maternal, newborn and child health.  Why commercialization?  Isn’t the current trend innovation, invention and ideas?  Read on to find out why. Compared to a decade ago, or even five years ago, the global focus on maternal health is heartening, promising and long overdue.  A great deal of energy and funding is going into new technologies for maternal health diagnosis and treatment.  Through a non-profit affiliate, Maternova Research, we are researching over 250 technologies, protocols and innovations. It has been amazing to watch the energy and enthusiasm for global health technology take root on college campuses, in labs, in global competitions bolstered by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), foundations and other groups. However, many great ideas turn out not to be viable for a multitude of reasons: a) no funding for proof of concept b) no funding for clinical trials c) dissolution of the team or d) competition from other innovators. We have begun to notice an inverse relationship between how ‘cool’ a technology looks or sounds and how viable it is in the field.  The focus must be on what works in the field over time.  We believe that all of us need to keep an eye on the horizon for innovations that are still being developed—but in the meantime be transparent about what the best available options are right now. There are still far too many simple, affordable innovations that are completely unknown and inaccessible to health care organizations that need them the most. Other potentially life-saving ideas may proceed at a healthy pace through all of these potential hurdles and reach a point where they have performed well in a pilot or in a clinical trial. This subset of technologies may even have one or two peer-reviewed studies documenting their efficacy.  But, these innovations too often stall because: a) The inventors do not know how to get the product through the right regulatory hurdles to reach a global market b) The innovators don’t necessarily have the goal or the ability to reach widespread commercialization across multiple continents or c) Most officials in Ministries of Health around the world and private sector institutions have never heard of the technology, and simply can’t demand something that they do not know about

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Tech4MH: A guest blog series on technologies for improving maternal health care

 The Maternal Health Task Force is excited to announce the launch of Tech4MH, a blog series that will focus on technologies that hold promise for meeting the challenges of delivering maternal health care in low resource settings. The series will feature posts from product designers, health technology and programming experts, and donors on innovations. Posts will highlight the role that guest bloggers see for new technologies overcoming barriers that leave too many women without the quality care they need during pregnancy and delivery. By Yogeeta Manglani, Research Assistant, Knowledge Management Team Recently, The New York Times profiled a mechanic in Argentina, Jorge Odon, who invented a low-cost instrument to ease assisted vaginal deliveries.

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Global investment framework and Lancet series lay out vision for achieving global convergence…

Today, The Lancet launched a special issue featuring the Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation, a report by the Lancet’s Commission on Investing in Health which lays out a vision for dramatically improving health and reducing disparities in health by 2035. The report follows up on the seminal Investing in Health, the 1993 World Development Report, offering a more comprehensive view and even stronger evidence of the economic case for investments in health, with both an agenda for future action and a review of the evidence of major achievements in improving health since the 1993 WDR was published. From the “Global health 2035″ report: A unique characteristic of our generation is that collectively we have the financial and the ever-improving technical capacity to reduce infectious, child, and maternal mortality rates to low levels universally by 2035, to achieve a “grand convergence” in health. With enhanced investments to scale up health technologies and systems, these rates in most low-income and middle-income countries would fall to those presently seen in the best-performing middle-income countries. Achievement of convergence would prevent about 10 million deaths in 2035 across low-income and lower-middle-income countries relative to a scenario of stagnant investments and no improvements in technology.

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Call for papers: Integrating health care to meet the needs of the mother–infant pair


Image credit: Jack Zalium, Flickr Written by: Kate Mitchell, Maternal Health Task Force The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and PLOS Medicine are committed to creating a platform for sharing critical evidence for approaches to improving maternal health around the world. The two organizations are also committed to ensuring that this important evidence is free and accessible for all. Last week, the two organizations published a joint editorial and call for papers in PLOS Medicine for the third year of the special collection of open-access research on maternal health, themed Integrating health care to meet the needs of the mother–infant pair. The editorial and call for papers mark the third year of partnership between the MHTF and PLOS Medicine.

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The Research and Evaluation Agenda for Maternal Health and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: Ending…

This post was written by Tamil Kendall, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Women and Health Initiative Globally, HIV and complications of childbearing are the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age. The epicenter of poor maternal health outcomes associated with HIV is sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of pregnant women living with HIV reside. In this region, women with HIV are six to eight times more likely to die during pregnancy and the postpartum period than HIV-negative women, approximately a quarter of maternal deaths are due to HIV, and WHO estimates that maternal mortality has actually increased in eight countries with high HIV prevalence over the past 20 years. Addressing the intersections between HIV and maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa is necessary to make good on international and country commitments to end preventable maternal mortality and achieve an AIDS-free generation. Fortunately, we know what some of the problems are and how to address them: In 2012, only 49% of pregnant African women were tested for HIV—scaling-up voluntary HIV counseling and testing to reach 90% of women attending prenatal care is needed to support women to access treatment for their own health and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV

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Mahmoud Fathalla explores the relationship among biological evolution, scientific advances and…

In “How evolution of the human brain shaped women’s sexual  and  reproductive health,”  an article published recently in Reproductive Biology Insights, Mahmoud Fathalla explores the ways that biological dimensions of human evolution have contributed to reproductive risks – but also their responses. For example, he notes that assistance during childbirth was just one practice that emerged in response to the evolution of human biology, pointing out that: “If the human female tries to catch the baby’s head herself, and to ease it out, she may break its neck. This is why midwifery may have been the oldest human profession. Birth attendance, how­ever, carried the risk of infection in the days before asepsis, anti-sepsis, and antibiotics.” He continues, pointing out that while women have continually borne the brunt of many poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, the evolution of the human brain and the scientific advances it has enabled have offered many advances for women’s health.  For example, when it comes to maternal mortality, Dr.

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Reflecting on developing country parallels at launch of program to address U.S. maternal…

Guest post by Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers As an OB/GYN who has worked in dozens of developing countries, I have seen firsthand what it’s like to give birth in places where resources are strapped and conditions are bleak. I’ve seen the way women struggle to gather the money needed to give birth at a facility. I’ve seen women walk miles – while in labor no less – to reach the closest health clinic or hospital. I’ve seen women get to a facility only to find that it’s overcrowded, understaffed or lacking in critical medicines and supplies. And for all these reasons, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing women die in pregnancy and childbirth, their deaths often hand tallied on the walls of health facilities, if counted by the system at all

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