The launch of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016 introduced a new era for the global health and development community. The new goals, which apply to all countries and run to 2030, include one health goal, SDG 3 — to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages” — with 13 associated targets. Target 3.1 calls for the global maternal mortality ratio to be below 70 deaths per 100 000 live births, a 68% reduction in only 15 years. Target 3.2 calls for all countries to lower their child mortality to at most 25 per 1000 live births and their neonatal (age 0-28 days) mortality to at most 12 per 1000 live births. Are countries on course to meet the new targets, and, if not, what do they need to do to accelerate their progress?

If “business as usual” trends from 2005 to 2015 continue to 2030, the global maternal mortality ratio will fall only to 164/100 000 live births. This is equivalent to an ongoing overall reduction of just 1.9% a year, slower than the rate of 2.7% per year from 2005 to 2015. The aggregate slowdown occurs because countries with high maternal mortality and slow rates of decline account for a gradually larger share of the world’s projected births over the period.

With so many lives at stake, accelerating the rates of progress in countries that are not on track to reach the SDG3 targets for maternal and child health is a critical global health priority. Given the differences between countries in characteristics such as health system capacity, fertility rate, and the main causes of death, there is no “one size fits all” approach to achieving such acceleration. Nevertheless, several health sector interventions — as well as policies outside the health sector — could promote acceleration across all low and middle income countries that are off-track.

Read the full article about SDG 3 trends for maternal and child health by John W McArthur, Krista Rasmussen, and Gavin Yamey at British Medical Journal.