Mobilizing women's groups for improved maternal and newborn health: evidence for impact, and challenges for sustainability and scale up

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2012 Oct;119 Suppl 1:S22-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.03.014. Epub 2012 Aug 9.


Research conducted over the past decade has shown that community-based interventions can improve the survival and health of mothers and newborns in low- and middle-income countries. Interventions engaging women's groups in participatory learning and action meetings and other group activities, for example, have led to substantial increases in neonatal survival in high-mortality settings. Participatory interventions with women's groups work by providing a forum for communities to develop a common understanding of maternal and neonatal problems, as well as locally acceptable and sustainable strategies to address these. Potential partners for scaling up interventions with women's groups include government community health workers and volunteers, as well as organizations working with self-help groups. It is important to tailor scale-up efforts to local contexts, while retaining fidelity to the intervention, by ensuring that the mobilization of women's groups complements other local programs (e.g. home visits), and by providing capacity building for participatory learning and action methods across a range of nongovernmental organizations and government stakeholders. Research into scale-up mechanisms and effectiveness is needed to inform further implementation, and prospective surveillance of maternal and neonatal mortality in key scale-up sites can provide valuable data for measuring impact and for advocacy. There is a need for further research into the role of participatory interventions with women's groups to improve the quality of health services, health, and nutrition beyond the perinatal period, as well as the role of groups in influencing non-health issues, such as women's decision-making power.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant Welfare*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Maternal Welfare*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Self-Help Groups