Partners'Forum 2010: From Pledges to Action

Side Events

Success Leadership: Achieving Results for Women's and Children's Health

Friday 12 November 2010


The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health and The World Bank


Dr Julian Schweitzer, former Chair of the Board of The Partnership and Co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Partners Forum

  • Dr T Sundararaman, India National Health Systems Resource Center
  • Professor Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr. Joanne Greenfield, AusAID
  • Dr Shyama Kuruvilla, PMNCH
  • Professor Daniele Caramani, University of St Gallen
  • Henrik Axelson, PMNCH

The recent decade has seen a steady global reduction in maternal and child mortality. However, global figures mask important differences among countries in their progress towards MDGs 4 and 5. While several countries are on track for at least one of the two goals - and a few are on track for both goals - other countries with similar socio-economic contexts and demographic markers have not made equivalent progress. The Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health emphasizes that political leadership is essential to accelerate progress. What is not well understood are the dynamics of successful leadership, how successes were achieved, what challenges were faced, and whether there are lessons learned that can be transferred across countries and regions.

This topic has been identified by Ministries of Health and other stakeholders as a key gap in MNCH knowledge. To address this gap, the World Bank and The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health are in the initial stages of a multi-country policy analysis and synthesis study, which aims to identify what constitutes successful leadership in making progress towards MDGs 4 & 5. The study includes quantitative analysis of the 68 priority countries of the Countdown to 2015 and in-depth case studies in a sub-set of countries.

To solicit feedback on methodology and initial findings of the study from senior officials from countries, policy analysts and researchers, the World Bank and The Partnership organized a pre-forum technical session titled "Successful leadership: achieving results for women's and children's health" in New Delhi on November 12. The session was The initial findings indicate that some of the leadership and governance, but not all, appear to have a link with MNCH outcomes. They also suggest a stronger link between the study's variables on leadership and other factors and MDG 4 compared to MDG 5.

The panelists and participants provided a number of insightful comments on the scope, methodology, and initial findings, as well as the importance of ensuring that findings will be of practical use in informing policy and planning of MNCH strategies and programs.

Dr. Sundararaman argued that making the study policy-relevant should be a priority as the work progresses and suggested that efficiency of health spending merits a special focus in the study. Professor Graham proposed that the study would benefit from additional sensitivity analysis and that learning from lack of progress is just as illuminating, if not more so, as learning from success.

Dr Greenfield emphasized that the study should focus on leadership not only at the national level, but also at the sub-national level, and that the gender dimension of leadership warrants further study. Several participants in the audience agreed that leadership is difficult to measure, partly because leadership is exercised at both an organizational and an individual level, and that the case studies are of particular importance on shedding light on this complex issue. It was also suggested that there is a difference between leadership and management and this should be taken into account.

Dr Julian Schweitzer concluded the session by stating that unpacking the factors that are critical to success is a challenge and that this study can fill an important gap in the evidence base. He also noted that some countries that have had an unstable political leadership at the highest level, have still managed to achieve impressive progress on MDGs 4 and 5, which means that leadership at the administrative level is worth studying in more depth.