Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health


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The SMRH Working Group synthesizes current research, best practices, and country experiences to provide CORE Group partner organizations with technical updates in the areas of women and maternal health; newborn and child health; and family planning and reproductive health.

Objectives for 2011 - 2015:

  1. To contribute to expansion of promising community-based program approaches and effective monitoring schemes of integrated programs across the MNCH continuum (through HBLSS scale up, training and monitoring; MAMAN training and monitoring;  and  USAID led integration efforts).
  2. To examine and disseminate innovations in MNC (ex. HBB, hemmorhage garment, and reproductive health technologies).
  3. Provide opportunities for CORE members and the broader development community to stay current on MNCH research.


Carolyn Kruger, PCI

Tanvi Monga, ICF International

Amy Metzger, Christian Connections for International Health

The Urgent Need:

  • Women and Maternal Health - Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour. Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and poorer communities. Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications than older women. Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. (WHO) Examples of community health approaches include helping families with birth plans, ensuring culturally appropriate care, and setting up emergency transport systems.
  • Newborn Health - Newborns have the highest risk of death among all children. Each day, about 8,000 babies die within the first 28 days of life – the neonatal or newborn period. Most of them are born in low and middle income countries and most of them die at home. Prematurity/low birthweight, infections and asphyxia/birth traumas cause 77 per cent of these deaths. Cost-effective, feasible interventions for newborns are available. Many of them can be done by families in the home including initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth, ensuring proper cord care, keeping the baby warm and dry, recognizing danger signs and seeking help, and giving special care to infants with low birthweight. (WHO and UNICEF Statistics, 2011). Facility interventions are crucial for other interventions such as newborn resuscitation and care for preterm births.
  • Family Planning - Increasing contraceptive use in developing countries has cut the number of maternal deaths by 40% over the past 20 years, merely by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. By preventing high-risk pregnancies, especially in women of high parities, and those that would have ended in unsafe abortion, increased contraceptive use has reduced the maternal mortality ratio—the risk of maternal death per 100 000 livebirths—by about 26% in little more than a decade. A further 30% of maternal deaths could be avoided by fulfillment of unmet need for contraception.. Children born within 2 years of an elder sibling are 60% more likely to die in infancy than are those born more than 2 years after their sibling. (Cleland, J et al. Contraception and Health; July 10, 2012). There are a wide range of family planning methods available, such as abstinence, natural family planning methods (LAM and cycle beads), barrier methods (condoms), hormonal methods (oral contraceptives), implantable devices (IUDs), and permanent methods for men and women. The choice of contraceptive method depends on your health, your reproductive health desires, your faith and beliefs, and the feasibility and acceptability of the method.






  • Developed “Taking Care of Baby After Birth: What Families Need to Do” flipbook in English, French, Kiswahili, and Kalenjin
  • Adapted the “Taking Care of Baby After Birth” flipbook for use in Molo District, Kenya and inclusion in Benin’s national child health package.
  • In collaboration with the Social and Behavior Change Working Group, SMRH developed a facilitator’s guide for the “SBC for Family Planning: How to Develop Behavior Change Strategies for Integrating Family Planning into MCH Programs.”
  • Developed “Better Together: Linking Family Planning and Community Health for Health Equity and Impact” resource paper.
  • With the Malaria and Nutrition Working Groups, continued to collaborate with MCHIP and other partners to increase knowledge and attention around integrated anemia prevention and control through the Anemia Task Force.


  • In partnership with the American Academy of Pediatricians, CORE Group provided practical input into the development of the “Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) Implementation Guide” – a resource for implementing neonatal resuscitation in low-resource settings and for advancing sustainable national programs for newborn and maternal health.
  • In partnership with Saving Newborn Lives, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and MCHIP, CORE Group developed and diffused the “Taking Care of a Baby at Home After Birth: What Families Need to Do” flipbook.  The flipbook focused on essential actions families can take both to prevent newborn death and illness and to promote healthy newborn development in the critical first day and week of life.
  • CORE Group developed a draft facilitator’s guide on developing behavior change strategies for integrating family planning into MCH programs for NGOs in low-resource settings.  The field guide was tested in Zambia in early 2012 and will inform the final version.
  • Hosted several technical state of the art webinar and in-person sessions including: Adolescents to Youth to Young Adults; Adapting HBLSS to Fit Your Program, Newborn Health, Practical Family Planning Integration, Maternal Health Innovations, Implementing Best Practices for Preventing and Managing Post Partum Hemorrhage and Pre-eclampsia / Eclampsia,  Asserting the Rights of Childbearing Women: Tackling Disrespect and Abuse in Facility –based Maternity Care, and Newborn Care Research Findings from SNL2.


  • Contributed 3 new case studies to the Flex Fund family planning case study series (with ICF):
    • Improving Family Planning by Creating Community Service Provider Partnerships in Guatemala (Save the Children) 
    • Integrating Child spacing with Maternal Care in Timor-Leste – Health Alliance International
    • Integrating Reproductive Health into Livelihood Programs in India- International Youth Foundation
  • Participated in the technical revision of the American College for Nurse Midwives Home-based Life Saving Skills (HBLSS) curriculum
  • Hosted booth to disseminate community-based family planning case studies at the Women Deliver Conference
  • Hosted workshop on maternal and child anemia (with Malaria and Nutrition Working Groups)
  • Hosted state-of-the-art webinars on Introduction of Depo SubQ in UNIJECT (with PATH), and Fertility Awareness Methods (with Institute for Reproductive Health / Georgetown University)
  • Contributed to “Implementing Best Practices” consortium collaboration and strategic planning


  • Partnered with the American College of Nurse Midwives to sponsor a 6 day training of trainers in Home Based Live Saving Skills in Tuscon, Arizona (July 27 – August 1, 2009). As a result of the meeting,  a concept paper was developed to reformulate the curriculum and conduct further trainings in priority countries.


  • Co-sponsored, with the Child Survival and Technical Support Project (CSTS+), a two week Basics of Community-Based Family Planning Regional Workshop in Bamako, Mali, via the USAID Flexible Fund, which seeks to promote the development of, interest in, and quality of community-based family planning and reproductive health services worldwide. The workshop covered the basics of community-based family planning, program design, and monitoring and evaluation issues.
  • Representatives from the SMRH Working Group participated in the Women Deliver conference, which marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of global Safe Motherhood Initiative. The goals of the conference were to 1) provide a spotlight the critical connection between women's health, rights, education and poverty reduction, 2) encourage governments to integrate women's health and rights into national plans and strategies, 3) kick off a campaign to raise substantial additional resources from public and private sectors and, 4) advocate for the use data on the health of women, mothers, and babies as a key indicator of the health of nations.
  • The SMRH Working Group sponsored several technical updates, including Where there is no doctor: Home-based newborn and child care by CHWs with Abhay Bang (Search); promising post-partum interventions for mothers and newborns; harnessing the power of new HIV positive mothers as "Mentor Mothers" in prenatal units; and integrating family planning and HIV.

CORE Group helps NGOs and governments effectively reach the community level, integrate community strategies into the national health plan, and respond to new and emerging health issues that arise so that preventable deaths from diseases like pneumonia and measles can be reduced.

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