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Research to decrease inequities for mothers, neonates and children

Date: Tuesday 30 October 13.30–15.00
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Andrés de Francisco, Deputy Executive Director, Research and Programmes, Global Forum for Health Research, Switzerland


One of the most striking expressions of health and development inequities is reflected in the different rates of mortality and morbidity of mothers and children between countries. There are currently reportedly about ten million deaths in children under five years old every year, four million neonatal deaths, and half a million pregnant women, mostly occurring in poor populations of low- and middle-income countries. Studies indicate that the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved unless action is taken on this front.

Research has contributed to the design of programmes to reduce mortality and improve maternal and child health. Programmes benefiting from such research results, in particular those aiming at improving child survival, can be quite effective. In low- and middle-income countries in which child mortality has been reduced, neonatal and maternal mortality have often remained high. It has been pointed out that unless mothers and children are targeted with joint sets of interventions and health promotion strategies, such mortality will not be reduced. The problem is that the knowledge to create such `joint' interventions on the so-called `continuum of health' does not really exist.

This paper reviews research required to facilitate the essential linkages of maternal, neonatal and child health programmes. Using a spectrum of research, the presentation will highlight points where innovation can yield specific recommendations to improve programme effectiveness.

Research elements will be presented in the following groups: 1) research on health systems for programme development, including how to overcome obstacles within health systems; 2) research to develop appropriate preventive and curative tools, including medicines, vaccines and diagnostic methods; 3) research for and by communities, including information sharing and the interactions between health, health promotion and related risk factors.