The year 2015 marks a defining moment for the health of women, children, and adolescents. It is the end point of the United Nations’ millennium development goals, and their transition to the sustainable development goals. It is also the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development’s plan of action and the Beijing Declaration and platform of action.
Although great strides have been made in reducing maternal and child mortality, showing that change is possible, many countries are lagging behind in reaching millennium development goal 4 (to reduce the under 5 mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015) and goal 5 (to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 and achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare by 2015), and there are vast inequities between and within countries. In 2010, confronted with unacceptably high rates of maternal and child mortality, the UN secretary general called on the world to develop a strategy to improve maternal and child health in the world’s poorest and high burden countries, starting with 49 low income countries. The articles in this collection examine the evidence and the thinking that form the basis of the new global strategy.