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J Glob Health. 2016 Jun;6(1):010506. doi: 10.7189/jogh.06.010506.

Improved measurement for mothers, newborns and children in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Author information

Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA.
International Center for Equity in Health, Post-Graduate Programme in Epidemiology, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil.
Global Health Fellows Program II, Bureau for Global Health, US Agency for International Development, Washington, USA.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, WA, USA.
UNICEF, New York, NY, USA.
WHO, Health Systems and Innovation, Geneva, Switzerland.



An urgent priority in maternal, newborn and child health is to accelerate the scale-up of cost-effective essential interventions, especially during labor, the immediate postnatal period and for the treatment of serious infectious diseases and acute malnutrition.  Tracking intervention coverage is a key activity to support scale-up and in this paper we examine priorities in coverage measurement, distinguishing between essential interventions that can be measured now and those that require methodological development.


We conceptualized a typology of indicators related to intervention coverage that distinguishes access to care from receipt of an intervention by the population in need.  We then built on documented evidence on coverage measurement to determine the status of indicators for essential interventions and to identify areas for development.


Contact indicators from pregnancy to childhood were identified as current indicators for immediate use, but indicators reflecting the quality of care provided during these contacts need development. At each contact point, some essential interventions can be measured now, but the need for development of indicators predominates around interventions at the time of birth and interventions to treat infections. Addressing this need requires improvements in routine facility based data capture, methods for linking provider and community-based data, and improved guidance for effective coverage measurement that reflects the provision of high-quality care.


Coverage indicators for some essential interventions can be measured accurately through household surveys and be used to track progress in maternal, newborn and child health.  Other essential interventions currently rely on contact indicators as proxies for coverage but urgent attention is needed to identify new measurement approaches that directly and reliably measure their effective coverage.

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