The Countdown to 2015 (Countdown, or CD) is a collaboration of academics, civil society activists, and development partners that carries out data collection, analysis, dissemination, and communications to help monitor progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality (MDGs 4 & 5). Countdown tracks progress in the 75 countries where more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths occur, including the 49 lowest-income countries. Countdown promotes accountability from governments and development partners, identifies knowledge gaps, and proposes new actions to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.
Countdown focuses on coverage — the proportion of individuals needing a health service or intervention who actually receive it — and on the equitable distribution of coverage across socioeconomic, ethnic, gender, and other population groups within countries. Countdown also examines the policy, health system, and financial factors that are crucial to determining coverage levels, patterns and trends. In addition, Countdown recognizes that a broader set of political, economic, social, technological, cultural, environmental, and other contextual factors affect coverage and mortality.
The CD’s financial affairs are managed through the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) that works through an administrative agreement with the World Health Organization in Geneva. The Countdown in managed by a Coordinating Committee and a newly formed Leadership Group.
Technical Working Groups
Countdown has four technical working groups (TWGs), focusing on Coverage, Equity, Health Systems and Policies, and Financing. Each technical working group is populated by technical experts representative of the continuum of care, and is open to interested individuals with technical expertise and time available to commit to the work. Each technical working group develops and conducts analyses and write-ups for the Countdown report, profiles, and articles for publication; participates with other TWGs in cross-cutting research activities; and supports and facilitates country-level engagement.
Monitoring financial resource flows for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health is a central part of the Countdown — determining the funding gap between resources currently available and the actual investments required to reach national and MDG targets, and holding governments and the international community to account for investing adequately in the health of women and children. Countdown’s Health Financing Working Group works to track and analyze these financial flows.
HSPH’s Role on the Countdown
Peter Berman, Professor of the Practice of Global Health Systems and Economics at HSPH, has chaired the CD’s Financing Working Group (FWG) since 2009 and participates actively in the CD Coordinating Committee, the cross-cutting analysis group, and CD conferences and events. As chair of the FWG, he has led the delivery of financing estimates for the CD 2012 global report, participated in CD governance and meetings, and coordinated FWG meetings and conference participation.
Countdown and FWG Activities
Among numerous activities, CD has published a series of reports on progress towards the MDGs, hosted global conferences and communication events, published numerous academic papers, and supported country level Countdown movements. The FWG has carried out monitoring work on the flow of official development assistance (ODA) for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health to CD focus countries, and has provided technical review and quality assurance for resource flow analysis carried out by other CD contributors. Additionally, the FWG has offered new analysis on domestic financing for maternal, newborn and child health programs, and reviewed reports on financing for MDGs 4 and 5.
In the coming year, the Finance Working Group plans to engage in the following additional activities to advance the goals of the Countdown:
- Continued monitoring of global ODA for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH);
- Guidance and support for Countdown Country Case Studies, which have been approved for 3 countries for the coming year with several additional countries pending for subsequent years;
- Assistance in development of the finance component of Country Countdowns;
- Support for Countdown publications, conferences, presentations, and other research projects.