The Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference is the first major global meeting after the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed upon in New York last month. As such, it plays a pivotal role in signposting the dawn of a new era – an era within which we have unprecedented momentum and opportunity to move forward in the global maternal and newborn health agenda.
At tonight’s welcome event in Mexico City, President of the University of Miami, Julio Frenk looked back and reminded the 400 organizations and 70 countries represented in the audience the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) were successful in focusing the attention of the global community on the health of mothers and newborns. He looked forward to the Sustainable Development Goals with a reminder we simply can not afford to lose focus on “finishing our unfinished agenda”.
An overarching message was that success in health never has a concrete end point – it is a moving target. The MDGs allowed us to improve the health of women and children around the world, but they also highlighted the many outstanding priorities still to be addressed.
Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Director of Programmes for UNICEF, told us maternal mortality has fallen by 45% between 1990 and 2015. She reminded the audience progress continues to favour the most fortunate and leaves behind those who have the least; the most impoverished and the least educated.
As the challenges facing mothers and newborns worldwide continues to shift, our response and our strategy must be maliable enough to shift alongside. We must take what we have learned in the last 15 years and apply it carefully to give the most vulnerable women and babies the chance to survive and the opportunity to thrive.
For Christopher Elias from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, data is key. We must consider how we measure success and monitor implementation in a way which does not overburden or overwhelm. In his eyes, we need to “measure fewer things better” and focus on the most relevant information.
Alongside data, equity and leadership were both cited as critical components to creating lasting change, and in the coming days we will hear more on each of these areas from experts within the field. This week, hundreds of individuals have a unique opportunity to learn together. We must align our energies so all babies, mothers and mothers-to-be can have the life they deserve.
Cover Photo Credit: GMNHC