The Countdown to 2015: A collaboration for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

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 is 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. 

Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health’s Role on the Countdown

Peter Berman, Professor of the Practice of Global Health Systems and Economics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,  has chaired the CD’s Financing Working Group (FWG) since 2009 and participates actively in the CD Coordinating Committee, the Scientific Review Group, and CD conferences and events. As chair of the FWG, he has led the delivery of financing estimates for the CD 2012 report, the CD 2014 report, the Lancet series, 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.

Below are some recent papers published by the FWG:

  • Berman P, Requejo J, Bhutta ZA, Singh NS, Owen H, Lawn JE, Countries’ progress for women’s and children’s health in the Millennium Development Goal era: the Countdown to 2015 experience, BMC Public Health, 12 September 2016. DOI 10.1186/s12889-016-3398-x
  • Mann C, Ng C, Akseer N, Bhutta ZA, Borghi J, Colbourn T, Hernandez-Pena P, Huicho L, Malik MA, Martinez-Alvarez M, Munthali S, Salehi AS, Tadesse M, Yassin M, Berman P, on behalf of the Countdown to 2015 health finance working group, Countdown to 2015 country case studies: what can analysis of national health financing contribute to understanding MDG 4 and 5 progress? BMC Public Health, 12 September 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3403-4
  • Moucheraud C, Owen H, Singh NS, Ng CK, Requejo J, Lawn JE, Berman P, Countdown Case Study Collaboration Group, Countdown to 2015 country case studies: what have we learned about process and progress towards MDGs 4 and 5? BMC Public Health, 12 September 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3401-6
  • Victoria C, Requejo J, Barros A, Berman P, Bhutta Z, Boerma T, Chopra M, de Francisco A, Daelmans B, Hazel E, Lawn J, Maliqi B, Newby H, Bryce J, Countdown to 2015: a decade of tracking progress for maternal, newborn, and child survival, Lancet, 15 October 2015. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00519-X
  • Arregocess L, Daly F, Pitt C, Hsu J, Martinez-Alvarez M, Greco G, Mills A, Berman P, Borghi J, Countdown to 2015: changes in official development assistance to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, and assessment of progress between 2003 and 2012, Lancet Global Health, 2015. DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(15)00057-1
  • Requejo J, Bryce J, Barros A, Berman P, Bhutta Z, Chopra M, Daelmans B, de Francisco A, Lawn J, Maliqi B, Mason E, Newby H, Presern C, Starrs A, Victora C, Countdown to 2015 and beyond: fulfilling the health agenda for women and children, Lancet, 29 June 2014. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60925-9
  • Hsu J, Pitt C, Berman P, Mills A, Reproductive health priorities: evidence from a resource tracking analysis of official development assistance in 2009 and 2010, Lancet, 18 May 2013. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60762-X 
  • Hsu J, Pitt C, Greco G, Berman P, Mills A, Countdown to 2015: changes in official development assistance to maternal, newborn, and child health in 2009–10, and assessment of progress since 2003. Lancet, 21 September 2012. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61415-9)pdf

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 and ongoing for 8 countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malawi, Ethiopia, Peru, Tanzania, China, and Kenya;
  • Assistance in development of the finance component of Country Countdowns;
  • Support for Countdown publications, conferences, presentations, and other research projects.

For more information about Countdown to 2015, please visit this website: