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University Of Aberdeen To Announce A Major International Research Programme To Help Reduce Maternal Mortality In The Developing World

Each year an estimated 515,000 women die from conditions associated with pregnancy and childbirth.  Most deaths occur in developing countries and most are preventable.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Elizabeth Coates
Operational Project Manager
Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment (IMMPACT)
Dugald Baird Centre for Research on Women's Health
Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
Phone: +44.0.1224.554477
Fax: +44.0.1224.404925

The University of Aberdeen has been awarded $27.5 million to work with partners across the developing world on a major new international research programme.  The Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment (IMMPACT), co-ordinated by the University's Dugald Baird Centre for Research on Women's Health, will strengthen the evidence-base for reducing maternal mortality and severe morbidity.  It will also bring together the largest ever collaboration of measurement scientists to work on safe motherhood.

At a press conference today (Thursday, 10 October), Professor Wendy Graham, Principal Investigator for IMMPACT, announced that the European Commission, the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Wellcome Trust, the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are among an Alliance of 12 major international agencies and foundations supporting the project. 

IMMPACT will receive technical, political and financial support from the Alliance, including $27.5 million (USD) to begin the seven-year programme of work. Funding is expected to rise to almost $40 million for the first four years of this initiative.

Professor C Duncan Rice, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen, said: "The University of Aberdeen has a long and outstanding history of research to improve the health of women and children, stretching back over 200 years. Today in this new century, we are proud and privileged to be the co-ordinating centre for this ambitious initiative that will make a global contribution to well-being."

Too many maternal deaths continue to occur. A woman's risk of dying of pregnancy-related causes in many of the poorest countries is still higher today than it was over a century ago in many industrialised nations.  In Northern Europe, the lifetime risk of maternal death is currently 1 in 8,000, whereas in the focus countries of this initiative, the risk can be as high as 1 in 10.

The ultimate goal of IMMPACT is to help improve maternal health and survival in developing countries.  To do so, it will provide rigorous evidence of effective and efficient intervention strategies in order to guide decisions on the allocation of precious health resources.  Improving the evidence base for decision-making will enable a cascade of benefits – in health gains to women, babies and families, in social and economic gains for the wider communities, and in enhanced methods and capacities for robust evaluation of health programmes. 

IMMPACT aims to meet its goal through primary and secondary research activities, conducted alongside major new and existing safe motherhood strategies. IMMPACT will work ultimately in eight developing countries, in close partnership with initiatives supported by governments and international agencies, as well as with research institutions and other collaborators. The research programme is planned for seven years and involves three core activities: methods development, programme evaluation, and capacity strengthening.

Professor Graham said: "Tackling the major measurement challenges faced by IMMPACT requires a critical mass of scientific and policy-relevant expertise. Success will be achieved through two essential ingredients – winning partnerships and technical excellence.  All those involved in IMMPACT regard our responsibility for its success as an honour but also an opportunity to make a real difference to the problem of maternal mortality in the developing world." 

Notes to Editors

Today's press briefing will be held at 11.30am, in the Linklater Rooms, at the University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen (Thursday, October 10). 

The Dugald Baird Centre for Research on Women's Health is a centre of excellence, pioneering people-based research on the health of women at both individual and population levels, in Scotland and internationally.  This month it launches IMMPACT – the Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment – thus creating the largest single team of measurement scientists ever brought together to work on safe motherhood.

Its research focuses on the evidence-base for action, by establishing the causes, circumstances and consequences of reproductive health problems – problems which, owing to pregnancy or childbirth, are costing 1 in 10 women their lives in the world's 49 poorest countries. 

The Dugald Baird Centre's innovative IMMPACT research programme will assess both the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of safe motherhood programmes.  IMMPACT will help inform the allocation of scarce resources for health care in these settings, providing vital new knowledge about strategies which meet the needs of women, families and communities. This new knowledge requires IMMPACT to develop mechanisms for measuring maternal mortality and ill health and for demonstrating what works in reducing the burden of unsafe motherhood.

The mission statement for the initiative is as follows:

IMMPACT will work with developing countries to improve the health and survival of women during and after pregnancy, by identifying effective and affordable strategies of care.

For further details on IMMPACT and the Dugald Baird Centre for Research on Women's Health, visit:, or

Further information regarding the press briefing is available from Angela Begg, Public Relations, University of Aberdeen, on (01224) 272960, or email:

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