Maternal and Newborn Health

The INDEPTH Network Maternal and Newborn Working Group (MNWG) was formed in the late 2010 as an interest group. The group was incorporated as a Working Group in the INDEPTH network in 2012. The main goal for its formation was to support the coordinated multi-site multi-country generation of evidence to inform policy and programmes specifically for maternal and newborn health and survival in low income countries. Currently, there are over 20 member sites that are subscribed to the group. However, because INDEPTH Network requires all member centres to monitor pregnancy and births, all sites are invited to be members. The MNWG has various potential roles towards the global maternal and new-born agenda. Through the MNWG also working through the HDSS sites, INDEPTH has the ability to monitor progress towards the ENAP and related undertakings. In building a post-MDG framework in the years following their expiry in 2015, the importance of tackling educational, economic and social inequities related to health is widely accepted as a core concern. The MNWG can collect this data and link with maternal and newborn issues in many countries and globally. 

In 2012, 6.6 million children died before their fifth birthday. As under-five mortality rates fall in richer developing regions, the majority of child deaths are occurring in low and middle incomes countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. A growing proportion of child deaths (42%) occur at or around the time of birth. Likewise, in 2010 an estimated 287,000 mothers died from pregnancy-related causes. Millions more suffer from complications resulting in illness and injury.

As all INDEPTH HDSS member centres currently track pregnancies, newborn births and deaths, the network provides an excellent platform for tracking newborn health interventions as well as morbidity and mortality trends on a longitudinal basis. The Maternal and Newborn Health working group has engaged 22 INDEPTH member sites and secured financial support from the South Africa Medical Research Council and Save the Children, as well as support from INDEPTH using the Sida core funding.

The group held a four-day data analysis and writing workshop in Ho, Ghana in July 2013, where participants agreed on standard definitions; prepared individual level datasets for analysis; conducted comparative analysis of maternal and newborn mortality based on existing data; drafted centre–specific and multi-centre papers based on identified research questions that would be supported by the existing data; and standardized tools for tracking pregnancies and their outcome. The meeting also developed a newborn research agenda for the INDEPTH Network and drafted a proposal for funding.

At a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa in the same month the group drafted papers on neonatal mortality based on cross-site pooled datasets. Two draft manuscripts for publication, covering stillbirths and neonatal deaths across HDSS sites, are nearing completion. The team is currently focused on capacity strengthening and the development of a tool kit for improving the capture of maternal and newborn related events at HDSS sites.