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WHO Identifies Interventions to Promote Maternal and Child Health Globally

World Health Organization Vows to Improve Maternal and Child Health

In a joint news release from Aga Khan University, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and the World Health Organization (WHO), a consensus has been agreed upon for key interventions that will sharply reduce the number of women and young children who die each year around the world due to pregnancy, childbirth and preventable illnesses such as iron-deficiency anemia.

The report “Essential interventions, commodities and guidelines for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health” is a three-year study that reviews more than 50,000 scientific papers and identifies 56 essential evidence-based interventions that could potentially eliminate the untimely deaths of 358,000 women and 7.6 million children in low- and middle-income countries.

Ninety-nine Percent of All Maternal Deaths Occur in Developing Countries

WHO notes that although considerable progress has already been made, many countries in Africa and south Asia still have very high maternal and child death rates. More than half of maternal deaths are caused by excessive bleeding and hypertension during pregnancy and childbirth. In newborns, the risk of dying during the first week of life is due to preterm birth, severe infections, and asphyxia.

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The interventions, which are aimed to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, are classified into three care levels and intended to set priorities to make use of the limited resources available in each country: community care, primary care, and referral care. Each has increasing levels of training and skills needed to perform for each of the six target groups: adolescent and pre-pregnancy, pregnancy (before birth), childbirth, postnatal (mother), postnatal (newborn) and infancy and childhood.

Some of the interventions include managing maternal anemia with iron supplementation, preventing and managing post-partum hemorrhage, immediate thermal care for newborns, extra support for feeding small and preterm babies, and antibiotics for the treatment of pneumonia in children.

“I’m sure that this research will help to reduce deaths among mothers, newborns and children and will help direct funds and resources to concerted action based on the best evidence for impact,” says Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, Founding Chair of Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University, Pakistan, who headed the study team.

"We now have a clear consensus, critical for the survival of women, their infants and children," says Dr. Carole Presern, Director, of PMNCH. "This was a meticulous effort involving many partners. It is truly a landmark moment in advancing the health of women and children."

Source: World Health Organization