(May 2007) Nationally and worldwide, the demand for reliable maternal death estimates has grown significantly since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, reliable and comparable data are scarce. Too often policies or program are developed despite a lack of data identifying which women are at highest risk of maternal death and inadequate knowledge of what actions are most likely to reduce the risk of such deaths.

To improve maternal health and survival, decisionmakers must often make difficult choices about where to allocate scarce resources and how to set program and policy priorities. To make such decisions, policymakers and program planners need accurate data on the level of and trends in maternal death in their country or region. Equally valuable is information on differences in the risk of maternal death between remote and urban communities, or between the rich and poor in a country.

This fact sheet takes a look at measurement challenges, solutions, and next steps developed by Immpact, a global research initiative designed to improve the methods and evaluation tools for measuring levels of maternal death and attributing changes in maternal health and survival to specific strategies.

Selected tools discussed include:

  • Maternal Deaths From Informants (MADE-IN). This tool uses village health workers or existing village administrative systems to collect information on deaths of women of reproductive age in the past two years—particularly pregnancy-related deaths.
  • Rapid Ascertainment Process for Institutional Death (RAPID). This tool is designed to reveal underreporting of pregnancy-related deaths in hospitals by comparing data from existing hospital records with routinely reported hospital figures. This creates more complete statistics on pregnancy-related deaths, which can be used to evaluate programmes, better monitor pregnancy-related deaths, and make realistic plans for limited resources.
  • Interpretation of Verbal Autopsy-Maternal (InterVA-M). This computer model Immpact adapted interprets data from interviews with the relatives of women of reproductive age who have died. It can help identify pregnancy-related deaths and classify the causes of death.