• This report also in French and Spanish.

(March 2006) Each year, millions of women, newborns, and children die from preventable causes. While the interventions that could save their lives are widely known, they are often not available to those most in need.

A look at the statistics worldwide shows that each year:

  • More than 60 million women deliver at home without skilled care.
  • About 530,000 women die from pregnancyrelated complications, with some 68,000 of those deaths resulting from unsafe abortion.
  • About 4 million babies die within the first month of life (the newborn period), and more than 3 million die as stillbirths.
  • Over 10 million children under the age of 5 die.
  • Moreover, nearly all (99 percent) maternal, newborn, and child deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

A continuum of care could meet these challenges and improve the health and survival of women, newborns, and children worldwide. There are two dimensions of the continuum of care—the maternal, newborn, child health (MNCH) continuum of care and the household to hospital continuum of care (HHCC). The goal of the HHCC approach is to ensure availability and access to quality maternal and newborn care that is provided in a seamless continuum that spans the home, community, health center, and hospital.5 This policy brief focuses on the former: the MNCH continuum of care.

The concept of an MNCH continuum of care is based on the assumption that the health and well-being of women, newborns, and children are closely linked and should be managed in a unified way. This model calls for availability and access to essential health and reproductive services (a) for women from adolescence through pregnancy, delivery, and beyond; and (b) for newborns into childhood, young adulthood, and beyond; because a healthy start can lead to a healthier and more productive life.

The new global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH) has adopted the continuum of care as one of its guiding principles to bring needed interventions to mothers, newborns, and children to improve their health and survival.