Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 03:47 pm

According to some of the world’s top maternal and child health experts writing in The Lancet, avoidable maternal and child deaths could be greatly reduced in a generation by rapid expansion of essential, highly cost-effective health interventions and services.

The research, undertaken by Professor Robert Black from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA and colleagues, was presented at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health conference in San Francisco in April 2016.

Health problems continue to kill millions of women and children

From improving pregnancy and delivery care, to treating life-threatening infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, and better childhood nutrition, the three integrated packages of proven interventions focus on a range of health problems that, despite major progress, continue to kill millions of women, newborns and children every year.

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Contraception essential to save lives

The authors estimate that satisfying 90% of the unmet global need for contraception could avert 28 million births each year and consequently prevent around 67 000 maternal deaths from childbirth, around 910 000 newborn and child deaths, and over 560 000 stillbirths every year.

Importantly, say the authors, most of these interventions could be delivered by community workers and primary health centres that together could be capable of preventing around three-quarters of preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, and stillbirths. Hospitals have the potential to avert the remaining deaths by improving management of complicated pregnancies and deliveries, severe infectious diseases, and malnutrition.

UN Millennium Development Goals not yet met

During the past 25 years, global health efforts have halved the death rate for children under five and cut the number of maternal deaths by 43%. However, the UN Millennium Development Goals have not been met, and around 2,6 million stillborn babies and 5,9 million newborn babies and children still died in 2015.

“Many maternal and child deaths could be prevented with cost-effective solutions, but they are not being widely implemented or targeted towards individuals in the greatest need,” concludes Professor Black.

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