Leaders from health and public policy organizations convened in New Delhi to discuss the national report from the Exemplars in Maternal and Newborn Health India study on August 23. The national analysis, as well as in-depth studies in six states, show how multiple drivers contributed to the large reduction in maternal and newborn mortality that India achieved in the last two decades.
“This exemplar study is a unique opportunity for us to reflect on what has been happening in India,” Dr. P. Ashok Babu, joint secretary of Health & Family Welfare said in his welcoming remarks
Dr. Vinod K. Paul, the keynote speaker for the event who currently serves as an honorable member of NITI Ayog, noted that the report represents an important opportunity to understand how mortality reductions have been achieved in very different contexts and even in so-called difficult states. India achieved the Millenium Development Goals goals for maternal and child mortality reductions in 2015, which was a remarkable accomplishment. Nationally, India is within reach of the Sustainable Development Goals, but the question is whether they will be achieved in most states, Paul said.
India was one of seven countries selected as maternal newborn health exemplars, mixed methods research conducted in 2020-2022; the Indian collaboration included National Health Systems Resource Centre, the International Institute for Population Sciences, India Health Action Trust and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, supported by the University of Manitoba and Countdown to 2030. Within India, the study focused on six states (Maharashtra, TamilNadu, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh), and state level reports will be released in the future. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the study was part of Gates Ventures initiative on Exemplars in Global Health.
“At the core of public health lies the pursuit of equity in health,” said Dr. Ties Boerma, professor at the University of Manitoba and former project director of Countdown to 2030. “We tend to find that the proverbial glass is half-empty. We tend to focus on what’s missing. Exemplars studies are about understanding how the glass became half full, or even three-quarters full.”
This positive public health research has generated new ways of analyzing and led to the development of a mortality transition framework to explain how countries move from higher to lower maternal and newborn mortality burden, Boerma said.
A complex array of factors contributed to India’s spectacular decline in maternal and newborn mortality, Boerma said. Increased access to and use of health services, quality of care improvements, and rapid fertility decline were all important proximate drivers, combined with critical government and managerial reforms, key legislation, improved organization of services, and increased resources. Effective use of data was also important.
Ms L.S. Changsan, additional secretary and mission director for the Department of Health & Family Welfare described how the national rural health mission was created in 2005 and has played a vital role in improving care of mothers and newborns.
The full video of the launch event is available at: