Success in Maternal Health

Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments

Success in Maternal Health
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The Ten “Fast-Track” Countries

Improving maternal and child health remains a challenge, especially in the developing world where the majority of these deaths take place. Each year, 289,000 maternal and 6.6 million child deaths still occur, and the causes behind most of these deaths are preventable. Still, there are some bright spots – ten countries have made accelerated progress in improving maternal and child health. These low- and middle-income countries, labeled “fast-track countries” have all demonstrated that “coordinated multi-stakeholder partnerships [and] multi-sector action, guided by sound data and strategic vision” are essential to meeting the Millennium Development Goals. (WHO)  Based on the success of these countries, the World Health Organization has identified which factors have impacted maternal health for the better.

Bangladesh has achieved a 66% drop in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2010 by introducing a maternal health voucher scheme, a commitment to family planning and widespread use of mobile technology for health promotion.

Cambodia’s maternal mortality ratio dropped from 830 to 206 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2010.  Cambodia launched a mass media campaign to promote exclusive breastfeeding, which has health benefits for both mother and child.  The per capita GDP rose dramatically in the last fifteen years, also contributing to better health outcomes.

China decreased maternal mortality by almost 80% by 2013, surpassing MDG 5, which set a target of 75%.  China utilized a subsidy program to encourage hospital deliveries and referral networks for high-risk pregnancies.

Success Factors for Maternal Health_WHOEgypt worked to reduce maternal deaths by 69% by 2012 by promoting family planning services, antenatal care and skilled birth attendance.  However, disparities between rich and poor, urban and rural remain pronounced.  Egypt’s Community Schools initiative has increased access to primary education especially for girls in remote areas.

Ethiopia has made some inroads in improving maternal health, with a 22% reduction in the last ten years.  Although Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, the deployment of close to 40,000 health workers has expanded primary care for women and children.

Lao PDR reduced maternal mortality by 80% in part because of its commitment to free healthcare for pregnant women and children under five and improving the midwifery workforce.  In addition to providing for pregnant women, Lao PDR has enacted policies that support women’s rights and promote female participation in the workplace and government.

Nepal decreased maternal mortality by 80% between 1990 and 2011.  Cash incentives have increased provision of maternal health services to women in remote areas.  Nepal also promotes contraceptive use, which most likely has helped with the reduction in total fertility rate to 2.6 from 5.3.

Peru’s maternal mortality rate has decreased by 65%, from 265 to 93 deaths per 100,000 live births.  Peru worked to remove cultural barriers from health care services, increase hospital births, implement family planning programs and expand prenatal care.

Rwanda has experienced accelerated progress in reducing maternal deaths since 2010.  Contraceptive prevalence and skilled birth attendance increased dramatically over this time as well.  Rwanda also introduced a community-based health insurance that provides a standard set of RMNCH services.

Viet Nam reduced maternal mortality by 70% by 2009 and increased the percentage of births attended by a skilled health worker.  The promotion of contraceptives has also contributed to the drop in maternal deaths.


Photo Credit

Ray Witlin / World Bank. 2008. Mother and newborn in hospital. [Photograph]. Retrieved from*

World Health Organization. 2014. Success factors for women’s and children’s health: Policy and programme highlights from 10 fast-track countries. [Report cover image]. Retrieved from:*

Work Cited

World Health Organization. 2014. Success factors for women’s and children’s health: Policy and programme highlights from 10 fast-track countries. Retrieved from:

*In no way does the licensor of this image endorse SCIWHF, the content of this post, or the use of this image on this website.


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