16 September 2014

Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health

New research across 142 countries finds that some 50 percent of the reduction in under-five child mortality in those countries is attributable to high impact health interventions such as early immunizations and skilled birth attendance. The remaining 50 percent is due to factors outside the health sector, such as girls’ education, women’s participation in politics and the workforce, reduction of fertility rates, access to clean water and sanitation, economic development and political commitment, which underpin progress.

Some of the main findings across the studies were that:

  • across 142 countries since 1990, around 50% of the gains in child mortality reduction resulted from investments in the health sector, the remaining 50% from health-enhancing investments in other sectors.;
  • it was not necessarily the highest GNP countries that progressed the fastest, ‘fast-track’ countries made progress despite political and economic challenges
  • fast-track countries invested in high-impact health interventions including skilled care at the time of birth, immunisations and family planning.
  • They also invested in health-enhancing interventions in other sectors such as girls’ education, women’s economic and political participation, and improving access to clean water and sanitation; and
  • good governance and social commitment underpinned progress.

The detailed evidence shows there is “no standard formula” for improved results, but progress across a set of core factors and sectors made the most difference. Conversely, countries that failed to make sufficient overall progress, while often making progress on a few factors, generally did not keep pace on the full set.

“Fast-track countries mobilized partnerships across the board, accelerating progress for women’s and children’s health,” says Dr. Presern. “I worked in one of these countries, Nepal, for nine years. Considering where Nepal was in 1986, to now, it is nothing short of spectacular.”

“These studies revealed that improving people’s health and strengthening health systems required investing in health-enhancing sectors such as education, water and sanitation, social protection, and infrastructure development,” explains Tim Evans, M.D., Senior Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group. “Smart, focused, multi-sectoral interventions are critical to securing the essential foundations for the health of women and children.”

“For the first time we can affirm with certainty that greater improvements in women’s and children’s health are the result of investments not only in the health sector, but across other sectors too,” says Flavia Bustreo, M.D., Assistant Director General at the World Health Organization.

The series’ findings have been published in scientific journals including The Lancet Global Health and the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. It was coordinated by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health to answer the question of why some countries achieved faster reductions of maternal and child mortality compared to other low- and middle-income countries. Collaborators of the studies were the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The main collaborators worked closely with governments and development partners.

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