New report looks at effective monitoring of indicators of progress on maternal, newborn and child health

22 November 2011

The Health Metrics Network, Countdown to 2015, UNICEF and the World Health Organization are launching a new report which aims to help chart advances in maternal, newborn and child health in high-burden countries. Monitoring maternal, newborn and child health: understanding key progress indicators was released at an international stakeholders meeting on implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability on Women's and Children's Health in Ottawa, 20-22 November 2011.

"Without information, at country level, we can never have accountability. Without information, we can never know what a “best” or a “wise” investment really means. Without information, we are working in the dark, pouring money into a black hole," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization in her address to the meeting.

The report summarizes the main opportunities and challenges to effective monitoring of 11 select, core indicators of maternal, newborn and child health in 74 countries which account for more than 95% of the world's maternal, newborn and child deaths. The publication explores the extent to which health information systems in these countries are currently able to report on the indicators with accuracy, frequency, timeliness and quality required. The report then provides descriptions of each of impact and coverage indicator ― for example, maternal mortality ratio, exclusive breastfeeding up to six months or antibiotic treatment for childhood pneumonia ― and discusses data sources and areas of potential improvement. The two financing indicators for resource tracking and the feasibility of disaggregating data by key dimensions of equity, such as wealth quintile, gender, age, urban/rural residence are covered.

The authors conclude that health information must be made available and used in programme management, and for planning and evaluation purposes, if improvements in women's and children's health are to be made and Millennium Development Goals are to be attained. Action should be focused on: 1. improving countries' capacity to measure and report on the above-mentioned indicators through an optimal combination of health facility reports, surveys, censuses, vital registration systems, national health accounts and other essential sources of data; and 2. improving policy-makers' capacity to use the data reported to strengthen programme management and ensure resources are allocated most appropriately.

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