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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 19;8(8):e71674. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071674. eCollection 2013.

Costs of inaction on maternal mortality: qualitative evidence of the impacts of maternal deaths on living children in Tanzania.

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Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America ; Program on the Health Rights of Women and Children, Fran¤éois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



Little is known about the interconnectedness of maternal deaths and impacts on children, beyond infants, or the mechanisms through which this interconnectedness is established. A study was conducted in rural Tanzania to provide qualitative insight regarding how maternal mortality affects index as well as other living children and to identify shared structural and social factors that foster high levels of maternal mortality and child vulnerabilities.


Adult family members of women who died due to maternal causes (N = 45) and key stakeholders (N = 35) participated in in-depth interviews. Twelve focus group discussions were also conducted (N = 83) among community leaders in three rural regions of Tanzania. Findings highlight the widespread impact of a woman's death on her children's health, education, and economic status, and, by inference, the roles that women play within their families in rural Tanzanian communities.


The full costs of failing to address preventable maternal mortality include intergenerational impacts on the nutritional status, health, and education of children, as well as the economic capacity of families. When setting priorities in a resource-poor, high maternal mortality country, such as Tanzania, the far-reaching effects that reducing maternal deaths can have on families and communities, as well as women's own lives, should be considered.

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