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Lancet Reports Steady Decline in Maternal Deaths Throughout the World: A Perspective from India

Findings from secondary data sources of maternal mortality of 181 countries strongly suggest that the number of women dying from pregnancy or childbirth has declined sharply since 1980. The New York Times covered the story on April 13, citing research published in the Lancet. (Free registration is required to view the Lancet article.)

The Lancet’s article is definitely worth noting, and is rich in context and methodological discussion.  Exciting news: India is among the leading countries in  reducing maternal mortality in the last 15 years (an average of 4% per year)!  This is, indeed, noteworthy in a country with the world’s second largest population (estimated at 1.15 billion in 2009). India now has an estimated maternal mortality rate (at 254 per 100,000 live births) comparable to Indonesia (which is at 229), despite a very different economic situation.  This is largely due to decreased total fertility rate, and some increase in maternal education—but also in the significant jump in skilled birth attendance at delivery. 

IntraHealth’s Vistaar Project in India is proud to be part of the country’s advances in maternal health.  The project, designed to assist the Government of India's maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition programs, helps promote the transfer of knowledge to practice and the use of data for decision-making.  Focusing on taking health care knowledge to practice, the Vistaar Project takes its name from the Hindi word for "expansion" or "flowering."  This five-year, $25 million project is funded by USAID/India and began in October 2006. IntraHealth’s partners include Abt Associates, Catholic Relief Services, and many local Indian organizations. The Vistaar Project works in close consultation and collaboration with the Government of India and the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. While the maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition situation in some parts of India is quite good, other, primarily rural, parts of the country face significant challenges. The Vistaar Project started by facilitating evidence reviews on the technical themes above. These reviews were conducted by recognized public and private sector experts. Based on the resultant recommendations, the project is supporting technical assistance for maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition programming, filling critical knowledge gaps in the selected technical thematic areas, and supporting advocacy and capacity-building on specific issues under the above themes.

We look forward to ongoing discussion of this article and its implications for our current and future work!