ELLA Policy Brief: Observatory of Maternal Mortality in Mexico: A Civil Society-Led Initiative


Maternal mortality is a complex social phenomenon resulting from huge health system failures and structural patterns of discrimination against women. Most of the women who die during pregnancy or childbirth are poor and have limited or no access to adequate healthcare services. Almost all of these deaths are preventable. Despite a number of African and Asian countries having made significant headway, more than halving their levels of maternal mortality since 1990, these two regions together still account for 85% of maternal mortality in the world. In contrast, in Latin America the average maternal mortality ratio is relatively low at 80 deaths per 100,000 live births. Notwithstanding, large differences can still be found between countries in the region, as well as amongst women from different socio-economic and ethnic groups.

Improving access to reliable information for understanding and preventing maternal death is one of the key challenges facing developing countries today. In 2010, the Observatory for Maternal Health in Mexico was established as a new civil-society led mechanism to create a system of indicators that facilitate the analysis, assessment and systematic monitoring of processes and outcomes of policies, strategies, programmes and services aimed at reducing maternal mortality in the country. This Brief provides an analysis of some of the key ways the Observatory is supporting the government to develop and improve public policy aimed at reducing maternal mortality, particularly amongst the country’s most vulnerable women.

Key Lessons:

The Observatory for Maternal Mortality in Mexico has implemented a novel strategy based on the creation of multidisciplinary, inter-agency and cross-sector partnerships for carrying out coordinated actions aimed at reducing maternal mortality.

By working with the main decision makers at federal, state and municipal levels, the Observatory is facilitating the collaborative development of maternal health policy that benefits from the technical expertise of different members of government and civil society.

The Observatory model is replicable at local level where efforts to change cultural attitudes towards maternal health can bolster broader objectives aimed at improving access to public services.

[Available in English and Spanish.]


Toledo, C. ELLA Policy Brief: Observatory of Maternal Mortality in Mexico: A Civil Society-Led Initiative. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 5 pp.

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