Harvard Chan School’s Women and Health Initiative Receives $4 million to Improve Maternal Health Measurement

The Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health’s Women and Health Initiative (W&HI) was awarded a three-year, $4 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to undertake research to develop and test indicators related to the social, economic, and equity aspects of maternal health and survival. The project, which will advance the strategies of the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality Working Group, will engage country decision makers as they test and implement the indicators and develop resources and materials for public health practitioners and policymakers. Together, the W&HI and its partners aim to provide the tools and technical assistance needed to drive progress toward ending preventable maternal mortality globally.

“Approximately 830 women die each day from preventable causes related to childbirth. Ending preventable maternal mortality requires the engagement and investment of all countries,” said Ana Langer, professor of the practice of public health at the Harvard Chan School and director of the W&HI. “This project will allow us to provide countries with a set of tested, validated, and relevant indicators they can use to track progress toward better outcomes for women and girls.”

The project will include dialogues and technical consultations to better understand country measurement needs and capacity, indicator testing and validation in three countries around the world, and several mechanisms to share research findings with relevant stakeholders through knowledge management and communication.

The project will leverage the strengths and resources of partners from the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality Working Group, including White Ribbon Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health. It will also benefit from collaboration with UNFPA, UNICEF, USAID, and the Maternal and Child Survival Program. This collaborative approach is designed to ensure coordination of efforts among different stakeholders in global maternal health, reduce duplication, and minimize the data collection and reporting burden placed on countries.

This project comes on the heels of two highly-consultative, global processes to identify indicators to accompany the guiding principles, cross-cutting actions, and strategic objectives laid out in the 2015 report released by the WHO, “Strategies toward ending preventable maternal mortality.” As Betsy McCallon, chief executive officer of the White Ribbon Alliance noted, “the validated indicators and support to countries will provide important tools to countries as they work individually to reduce maternal mortality at home and contribute to the reduction of maternal deaths worldwide.”