Measures matter: A scoping review of maternal and newborn indicators

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 9;13(10):e0204763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204763. eCollection 2018.


Background: A variety of global-level monitoring initiatives have recommended indicators for tracking progress in maternal and newborn health. As a first step supporting the work of WHO's Mother and Newborn Information for Tracking Outcomes and Results (MoNITOR) Technical Advisory Group, we aimed to compile and synthesize recommended indicators in order to document the landscape of maternal and newborn measurement and monitoring.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review of indicators proposed by global multi-stakeholder groups to suggest next steps to further support maternal and newborn measurement and monitoring. Indicators pertaining to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum/postnatal and newborn care were extracted and included in the indicator compilation, together with key indicator metadata. We examined patterns and relationships across the compiled indicators.

Results: We identified 140 indicators linked to maternal and newborn health topics across the continuum of service provision. Fifty-five indicators relate to inputs and processes, 30 indicators relate to outputs, outcomes comprise 37 indicators in the database, and 18 impact indicators. A quarter of indicators proposed by global groups is either under development/discussion or is considered "aspirational", highlighting the currently evolving monitoring landscape. Although considerable efforts have been made to harmonize indicator recommendations, there are still relatively few indicators shared across key monitoring initiatives and some of those that are shared may have definitional variation.

Conclusion: Rapid, wide-ranging work by a number of multi-stakeholder groups has resulted in a substantial number of indicators, many of which partially overlap and many are not supported with adequate documentation or guidance. The volume of indicators, coupled with the number of initiatives promoting different indicator lists, highlight the need for strengthened coordination and technical leadership to harmonize recommendations for improved measurement and monitoring of data related to maternal and newborn heath.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers
  • Parturition / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*