Since 2000, the Chinese government has implemented an intervention program to reduce maternal mortality and eliminate neonatal tetanus in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals 5. To assess the effectiveness of this intervention program, we analyzed the level, trend and reasons defining the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the 1,000 priority counties before and after implementation of the intervention between 1999 and 2007.
The data was obtained from the National Maternal and Child Health Routine Reporting System. The intervention included providing basic and emergency obstetric equipment and supplies to local medical hospitals, and also included providing professional training to local obstetric doctors, development of obstetric emergency centers and “green channel” express referral networks, reducing or waiving the cost of hospital delivery, and conducting community health education. Based on the initiation time of the intervention and the level of poverty, 1,000 counties, containing a total population of 300 million, were categorized into three groups. MMR significantly decreased by about 50%, with an average reduction rate of 9.24%, 16.06%, and 18.61% per year in the three county groups, respectively. The hospital delivery rate significantly increased. Obstetric hemorrhage was the leading cause of maternal deaths and significantly declined, with an average decrease in the MMR of 11.25%, 18.03%, and 24.90% per year, respectively. The magnitude of the MMR, the average reduction rate of the MMR, and the occurrence of the leading causes of death were closely associated with the percentage of poverty.
The intervention program implemented by the Chinese government has significantly reduced the MMR in mid-western China, suggesting that well-targeted interventions could be an efficient strategy to reducing MMR in resource-poor areas. Reduction of the MMR not only depends on conducting proven interventions, but also relies on economic development in rural areas with a high burden of maternal death.