Background: The health Millennium Development Goals (4, 5, 6) impose the same ambitious 2015 targets on every country. Few low-income countries are on track to reach them. Some authors have proposed country-specific targets as a more informative method by which countries can measure their progress against their potential.
Methods: This paper demonstrates a supplementary approach to assess individual country progress that complements the global goals by adjusting for socioeconomic resources and prior time trends. A minimum performance target adjusts for time and national GDP. Fast-track targets, based on best-performing countries' progress within regional and income groups, adjust for health and non-health sector factors known to affect maternal and child health.
Results: Measuring by the minimum performance target, 74% and 59% of low- and middle-income countries are on track for reducing child mortality and maternal mortality, respectively, compared with 69% and 22% using global MDGs. Only 20% and 7% of low- and middle-income countries are on track for the child and maternal mortality fast-track targets.
Conclusions: Supplementary targets in maternal and child health, adjusted for each country's resources and policy performance can help countries know if they are truly underperforming relative to their potential. Adjusted targets can also flag countries that have surpassed their potential, and open opportunities for learning from success.
Funding: Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health and the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, as part of the Success Factors Study on reducing maternal and child mortality.