Achieving the millennium development goal of improving maternal health: determinants, interventions and challenges

Elizabeth Lule, Nandini Oomman, Joanne Epp, Dale Huntington, GNV Ramana, James E. Rosen

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


This paper summarizes the importance of improving maternal and reproductive health, the progress made to date and lessons learned, and the major challenges confronting programs today. The paper highlights the progress that some countries, including very poor ones, have made in reducing maternal mortality, but cautions that progress in many countries remains slow. Relying on evidence from the most recent research and survey information, the paper also analyzes the key determinants and evidence on effective interventions for attaining the maternal health MDG. The paper finds that key interventions to improve maternal and reproductive health and reduce maternal mortality include the following mutually reinforcing strategies: (a) mobilizing political commitment and fostering an enabling policy environment; (b) investing in social and economic development such as female education, poverty reduction, and improvements in women’s status; (c) providing family planning services; (d) ensuring quality
antenatal care, skilled attendance during childbirth, and availability of emergency obstetric services for pregnancy complications; and (e) strengthening the health system and community involvement. The paper emphasizes that carrying out interventions remains a challenge in environments where political commitment, policies, as well as institutions and health systems, are weak. The paper concludes with guiding lessons from some of the countries that have successfully improved maternal health and with a discussion of some of the difficulties of measuring maternal mortality and morbidity outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe World Bank
Number of pages90
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameHealth, nutrition and population (HNP) discussion paper


  • maternal health
  • reproductive health
  • Millennium Development Goals

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