Of blind alleys and things that have worked: history’s lessons on reducing maternal mortality

Of blind alleys and things that have worked: history’s lessons on reducing maternal mortality

Examining the history of how the USA, England, Wales and Sweden lowered maternal mortality

Where nothing effective is done to avert maternal death, “natural” mortality is probably around 1,500/100,000. Part of the world now has maternal mortality levels of the order of 5, some 300 times less. Only rich industrialised countries have achieved such stable historical lows, but many middle-income and some poor countries are getting quite close. The majority of low-income countries, however, still have a long way to go. Poverty clearly contributes to this sorry state of affairs, but it does not explain everything.

This chapter from ‘Safe Motherhood Strategies: a Review of the Evidence’, published by the Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITG), analyses the conditions under which the industrialised world has reduced maternal mortality over the last hundred years. Preconditions appear to have been early awareness of the magnitude of the problem, recognition that most maternal deaths are avoidable, and mobilisation both of professionals and of the community. [adapted from authors]

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