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Every woman, every newborn, everywhere has the right to good quality care.

This is the guiding message of the 2016 Lancet Maternal Health Series—the first such series in a decade of change.

Good maternal health is a human right, as well as a pre-condition and a determinant of newborn, child, and adolescent health, and of sustainable development more generally.

So what steps must local, national, and global communities take to achieve the SDG vision to reduce maternal deaths to less than 70 per 100 000 live births by 2030?

The Lancet Maternal Health Series proposes the following five-point action plan for all stakeholders, working in partnership to realise the vision of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health:

Quality: Partners must prioritise good quality, evidence-based maternal health services that respond to local needs and are capable of meeting emerging challenges. It is essential that maternal health services start with prevention (e.g., family planning, and safe abortion where legal), are context-appropriate, interlinked along the continuum of care, and capable of addressing the increasing diversity in the burden of poor maternal health.

Equity: Partners must promote equity, for example through investments in Universal Health Coverage—a mechanism for achieving the SDGs—that should include a strong maternal health service core that reaches every woman, everywhere with good quality care, and without causing financial hardship and pushing families into poverty.

Health systems: Partners must invest in strengthening entire health systems, including data and surveillance systems, facility capability, linked emergency medical services, and a skilled health workforce—so that they can respond to the changing contexts of women’s lives and are made resilient in the face of shocks and environmental threats to maternal and newborn health.

Financing: Sustainable financing for maternal health is necessary to maintaining maternal health gains and accelerating progress. With recent economic growth in low- and middle-income countries, the case for investing in health as a catalyst to both social development and economic growth is crucial to securing political attention and support.

Better evidence: Better local evidence from routine audits and strengthened health management information systems is essential to improving quality of care locally—at the very frontline where women receive care. Smarter metrics are needed to capture the true burden of poor maternal health, to inform evidence-based maternal care and policy, and improve the ability of health systems to provide good quality maternal care for all. Better evidence from research will also help build a platform upon which all partners—local and global, public and private—can advocate for the mobilisation of resources, learn from programmatic successes and failures, strengthen laws and policies, and promote mutual accountability.

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