Advancing Maternal Health Measurement Through Coordination: the Role of the WHO MONITOR Expert Working Group

The Improving Maternal Health Measurement Capacity and Use (IMHM) project is led by the Women & Health Initiative at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. This project aims to improve measurement capacity for maternal health through a) the development and validation of indicators to inform global standards, and b) support to countries for the adoption and use of the indicators. Our work is supported and enhanced by our broad network of partners and collaborators. Maintaining close ties with other maternal health measurement initiatives is a key part of the IMHM project’s mandate. This post is the first in a series that will introduce these connections and highlight the experts and initiatives with whom the IMHM project coordinates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) convenes the Mother and Newborn Information for Tracking Outcomes and Results Technical Advisory Group (MoNITOR). MoNITOR is comprised of 14 external experts who advise WHO on maternal and neonatal measurement and metrics, in an effort to support monitoring progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal targets and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescent’s Health.

Last year, MoNITOR published a commentary in Reproductive Health describing the purpose of the group, its term of references, and its ongoing work. We had the chance to discuss the commentary further with its lead author, Dr. Allisyn Moran of the WHO. Dr. Moran co-leads MoNITOR and is also part of the IMHM project’s steering committee and the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) Working Group. Dr. Moran co-chaired the process to develop the monitoring EPMM framework that the IMHM project is now working to refine. We sat down with Dr. Moran, who has a wealth of maternal health and measurement expertise, to ask her a few questions about MoNITOR.

With the wide variety of ongoing efforts working to develop, test, and implement metrics for maternal and newborn health and survival (EPMM, Countdown to 2030, and the Every Newborn Action Plan [ENAP], to name a few), MoNITOR facilitates coordination and harmonization of these various measurement efforts. Dr. Moran points out that MoNITOR plays a key role in developing standards, norms and tools to provide guidance to countries on what to measure within maternal and newborn health.

For MoNITOR, careful synthesis of results and lessons from existing and ongoing measurement efforts are vital in providing “messages, support and guidance for country partners” to improve capacity for implementation of Maternal Newborn Health (MNH) metrics. For Dr. Moran, MoNITOR’s work is “not only the technical aspects of which indicators to collect, but also thinking about how this [work] can be used and translated where it matters the most to improve the health of women and newborns and ensure progress towards the SDGs.”

According to Dr. Moran, the IMHM project “will be one of the important inputs to inform MoNITOR, similar to many of the other efforts to develop, test and validate specific types of indicators. Once there are results from the IMHM research, that information can contribute to discussions “that can then result in improved monitoring.” As a member of its steering committee, Dr. Moran also believes that the IMHM project will benefit greatly from the important work MoNITOR is doing to advance maternal health measurement. Going forward, the IMHM project will continue to collaborate with MoNITOR and to learn from the group’s important work, a critical resource for coordinated improvement of MNH measurement.

Dr. Moran concludes “there are a variety of indicator efforts out there doing fabulous work and really pushing the envelope with an innovative focus on how we can better monitor programs for maternal and newborn health and survival.”