Maternal, Newborn & Child Health

Our goal
To ensure that women and newborns remain healthy before, during, and after childbirth, including by supporting the development, testing, and scale-up of innovative solutions to address underlying vulnerabilities contributing to poor health.
A mother and newborn at a health center in the Patna district of Bihar, India.
A mother and newborn at a health center in the Patna district of Bihar, India.

At a glance

  • Maternal and newborn deaths have fallen in recent decades, but progress has slowed and millions of women and newborns still die during childbirth and the first month of life—most of them from preventable causes.
  • We invest in research to understand why some mothers and babies are more vulnerable and to support the development and testing of innovations that can reach them in the right place and at the right time.
  • We work alongside partners to strengthen health care systems so they can support sustainable scale-up of high-impact innovations and improve the quality of care that women and newborns receive.
  • We advocate for evidence-based policies and programs and better coordination of donor and domestic resources and approaches to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes.

The latest updates on maternal, newborn & child health

Image of a woman holding a newborn

This may be the best 'medicine' in newborn care

A low-tech intervention—skin-to-skin contact with the mother—is improving outcomes for premature and low-birth-weight newborns around the world, even during the pandemic.
By Hema Magge Senior Program Officer, Maternal, Newborn, & Child Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Vitamin A

The danger of complacency: Lost progress in vitamin A distribution

After nearly two decades of rising coverage, our progress on a critical piece in the fight against malnutrition is unravelling. Vitamin A distribution is now at a seven-year low. We know what we need to do to turn the tide—now is the time to do it.
By Shawn Baker Director, Nutrition, Global Development Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Maternal Care

Solving crowded hospitals and inadequate maternal care are keys for reducing infant mortality

Stored on her desktop computer, Dr. Anita Zaidi keeps the photo of a grandmother holding her baby grandson at a community clinic on the shores of the Arabian Sea in Pakistan.
By Ryan Bell Feature Writer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Our strategy

Our strategy

The foundation’s Maternal, Newborn & Child Health program envisions a world in which healthy mothers deliver healthy babies and receive quality care from skilled and well-equipped health care workers, including midwives. We invest in understanding the biological and social vulnerabilities of women and babies to inform the development of innovative tools and practices that can strengthen health care systems, reduce inequities, and improve health outcomes for women, newborns, and children.

The Maternal, Newborn & Child Health team supports work at the country level and facilitates national, regional, and global policy and financing strategies that can expand the use of proven innovations. We work closely with governments, professional associations, multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, and the private sector, and we collaborate with other programs and teams across the foundation (including those focusing on research and development, nutrition, family planning, delivery of health products and services, and gender equality).

A health extension worker in Ethiopia takes an infant’s temperature.
A health extension worker in Ethiopia takes an infant’s temperature.
Areas of focus

Areas of focus

Our Maternal, Newborn & Child Health strategy has an end-to-end focus, from upstream research and product development to downstream delivery of innovations.

We invest in collecting data and evidence to better understand which populations of households, pregnant women, mothers, and newborns are most susceptible to poor health outcomes and why. This includes understanding care pathways and identifying and addressing the barriers that prevent these women and newborns from receiving high-quality care, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of life.

We invest in diagnostics, devices, therapeutics, treatment algorithms, nutritional interventions, care delivery approaches, and other tools to support the health and nutrition of pregnant women and their babies and improve the care provided by health workers, primarily targeting the period between conception and a child’s second birthday. Working with our partners, we test these tools in the real world to determine their effectiveness and scalability.

We support global, regional, and national partners and initiatives that work to apply new evidence, implement supportive policies, allocate resources, and strengthen accountability mechanisms in order to accelerate adoption of proven innovations. We also offer technical expertise to national governments, including to guide market entry and in-country delivery of interventions.

Why focus on maternal, newborn, and child health?

Why focus on maternal, newborn, and child health?

The global community has achieved significant gains in maternal and newborn health, but progress has slowed and is not evenly distributed around the world. Every year, millions of newborns die within days or weeks of birth, and hundreds of thousands of women die during pregnancy and delivery. Almost all of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income settings and are due to preventable causes such as poor access to care, fragile delivery systems, complications of being born too small or too soon, and infection.

Maternal health is closely linked to newborn survival, as vulnerabilities to illness can pass from mother to child. While great strides have been made in reducing under-5 child mortality overall, newborns remain particularly vulnerable, accounting for 47 percent of all childhood deaths globally. Each year, 2.5 million newborns die within their first month of life, and an additional 2.6 million are stillborn. We need to better understand the root causes of these deaths and design interventions to address them.

In addition, and although facility births are increasing, quality of care remains a critical challenge. As the Lancet Commission on High Quality Health Systems wrote in a 2018 report, poor-quality care is “a bigger barrier to reducing mortality than insufficient access,” with 60 percent of deaths from preventable causes resulting from poor-quality care. Primary health care systems are often ill-equipped to prevent or address underlying causes of illness or other complications, and patients often lack access to referrals to higher levels of care. Furthermore, resourcing for health is often insufficient or fragmented and accountability for policy implementation is lacking in many settings.

A home visit with a mother and newborn in the Patna district of Bihar, India.
A home visit with a mother and newborn in the Patna district of Bihar, India.

Against this backdrop, we need to act urgently to accelerate progress to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets of reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality and improving nutrition.

Strategy leadership

Strategy leadership

Related programs

Related programs

Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Discovery Tools

The Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Discovery & Tools team invests in research and development to address biological vulnerabilities in pregnancy and early childhood, including malnutrition and preterm birth.

Family planning is a key part of the foundation's broader commitment to empowering women and improving family health.
Family Planning

The Family Planning team works with partners to expand access to high-quality contraceptive information, services, and supplies for women and girls in the world’s poorest countries.

A mother in Bangladesh feeding her child solid food to complement breastfeeding.

The Nutrition team invests in disseminating proven approaches and developing new solutions that improve nutrition, with a focus on women and children in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Children at a launch ceremony for a new meningitis vaccine in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Global Delivery Programs

The Global Delivery Programs team works with partners to improve the delivery of health products and services and promote health system innovations so countries can reduce maternal and child mortality, improve disease control, and advance health equity.

Discovery & Translational Sciences

The Discovery & Translational Sciences team invests in the development of new, better, more affordable, and more easily disseminated tools that can have transformational impact on global health and development.