Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

New Report: Are Health Interventions Reaching Women and Children in the Developing World?

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May 07, 2013

On May 7, from 9:30am - 12:30pm EDT you may watch the launch event for this report, live from the National Press Club, featuring the authors of this report, along with featured speakers from USAID, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In his annual letter this year, Bill Gates discusses how important measurement is to improve the human condition. We need measurements to know what works and who benefits. Rigorous measurement of the proportion of women and children in need of life-saving interventions who actually receive them remains a challenge, which is why the new collection Measuring Coverage in MNCH: New Findings, New Strategies and Recommendations for Action from PLOS Medicine is so timely. The report, launched today, presents assessments of current methods for measuring coverage of health interventions and proposes strategies to improve those measurement methods.

 The information gathered in these surveys helps to identify pockets of underserved populations and to identify effective strategies to reach them.

Over the past decade, the global health community has seen dramatic declines in child mortality, but seven million children younger than 5 years old are still dying each year. Effective interventions could prevent many of these deaths, but these interventions are not reaching all those who need them. Unless we know where those interventions are missing, we can’t reach those women and children who are most in need.

Strikingly, only 11 of the 75 countries that account for 95 percent of all deaths among women and children have recent data on key indicators recommended for global monitoring of the UN Secretary-General global initiative “Every Women, Every Child”.

That is the significance of this report—this report is an important step to systematically review and identify the best ways to know where the interventions exist, where they are missing, and where they need to be strengthened.

 Over the past decade, the global health community has seen dramatic declines in child mortality, but seven million children younger than 5 years old are still dying each year.

The analysis done for this collection of articles shows how important high-quality household surveys are to monitor progress toward national and international health goals. The information gathered in these surveys helps to identify pockets of underserved populations and to identify effective strategies to reach them. The authors note that these surveys—like the Demographic Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys – could be supplemented by tools with a “lighter lift,” something that could be implemented more frequently and with indicators that give better evidence of the actual coverage of interventions. These surveys focus on indicators that provide a valid measurement to inform decision-making, such as indicators for neonatal interventions and postnatal visits.

Most importantly, this collection reminds us that much remains to be learned about how best to measure the coverage of MNCH interventions through household surveys and how to complement those with health-facility-based assessments of service quality. This report should motivate us to build on and extend this work to find options for improving current metrics and validate new indicators and modules to better reflect reality.

As Melinda Gates concludes in her call for better data and more of it, in Measure by Measure:  “If we invest in better measurement, we will get a lot more impact out of all that courageous effort” by families, communities, practitioners and governments.

 
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