Costs of inaction on maternal mortality: qualitative evidence of the impacts of maternal deaths on living children in Tanzania

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 19;8(8):e71674. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071674. eCollection 2013.


Background: Little is known about the interconnectedness of maternal deaths and impacts on children, beyond infants, or the mechanisms through which this interconnectedness is established. A study was conducted in rural Tanzania to provide qualitative insight regarding how maternal mortality affects index as well as other living children and to identify shared structural and social factors that foster high levels of maternal mortality and child vulnerabilities.

Methods and findings: Adult family members of women who died due to maternal causes (N = 45) and key stakeholders (N = 35) participated in in-depth interviews. Twelve focus group discussions were also conducted (N = 83) among community leaders in three rural regions of Tanzania. Findings highlight the widespread impact of a woman's death on her children's health, education, and economic status, and, by inference, the roles that women play within their families in rural Tanzanian communities.

Conclusions: The full costs of failing to address preventable maternal mortality include intergenerational impacts on the nutritional status, health, and education of children, as well as the economic capacity of families. When setting priorities in a resource-poor, high maternal mortality country, such as Tanzania, the far-reaching effects that reducing maternal deaths can have on families and communities, as well as women's own lives, should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / economics
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Orphaned / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Focus Groups
  • Foster Home Care / economics
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Legal Guardians / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Maternal Death / economics
  • Maternal Death / prevention & control
  • Maternal Death / statistics & numerical data*
  • Maternal Health Services / methods
  • Maternal Mortality / trends
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tanzania
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This project has been conducted with support from The John and Katie Hansen Family Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.