Health facility births key to substantially reducing maternal deaths worldwide

Making sure pregnant women throughout the world can give birth in a health centre, in the presence of a midwife, is the best strategy to ensure their survival, according to a landmark series of papers published by The Lancet and launched at a press briefing in London today (Wednesday September 27, 2006). The authors warn that without political commitment and investment into such a strategy, substantial declines in maternal deaths are unlikely in the next 10-20 years, and the fifth Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 - will not be met.

Over half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year. For every 30 000 women in Sweden, one will die of maternal causes. In sub-Saharan Africa the average figure is a staggering one in 16 and in South Asia one in 43. The maternal survival series reveals the causes of these deaths, details the best strategy to prevent them, and outlines the action that is urgently required by governments and the international community.

Industrialised countries and some developing countries have had dramatic reductions in maternal deaths. The same is possible in other countries if a few key strategic choices are made by those with the real power to act--the politicians, donors, UN agencies, and professional bodies--state the authors. Training and retaining health workers and removing the financial costs of health care form a key part of the strategy to save the lives of 529 000 women who die from pregnancy-related causes each year.

A booklet containing the five papers that form the series and five accompanying comments, the press release, and other media materials will be available at the briefing.

Chair: Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet

Speakers:

Dr Carine Ronsmans, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Dr Oona Campbell, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Dr Francisco Songane, Director, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

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For more information and to attend please e-mail Udani Samarasekera in The Lancet press office pressoffice@lancet.com or T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/ 4249 or 07798 882 308

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine press office on +44 (0) 207 927 2073/2802

Notes to editors

Other authors available to speak to press at the briefing include:

Dr Veronique Filippi, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Professor Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen, UK

Mr Craig Lissner, World Health Organisation

Dr Marge Koblinsky, ICDDR-B, Bangladesh


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