Model Indicators for Maternal and Child Health: An Overview of Process, Product, and Applications

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ObjectivesFurther improvements in the health of mothers and children depend, in part, on collecting, analyzing, and interpreting relevant data correctly. Despite consistent efforts to improve data capacity and use during the past two decades, the need persists for a model set of maternal and child health (MCH) indicators to guide decisions about health conditions to be monitored, elements to be included in data sets, and definitions of measures. This article describes development, key characteristics, and major applications of a set of MCH Model Indicators (MCH MI) created to address these needs.MethodsA conceptual model with five domains was created to organize and guide development of the indicators. The development process included systematic specification of concepts, formulas, age/gender groups, and data sources, as well as recommendations for frequency of surveillance. Information sources included published reports and expert opinion.ResultsThere are 217 indicators distributed across domains as follows: 75 health status, 9 contextual characteristics, 16 health systems capacity and adequacy, 49 risk/protective status, and 68 health and related services. Twenty of the indicators, all of them in the health status domain, are recommended for routine surveillance.ConclusionsThe indicators can be used to identify and address MCH problems, to complement and expand other sets of MCH indicators, to serve as standards for consistent definitions, to provide guidance for creation and revision of MCH and related data bases, and to provide a foundation for the development of related sets of indicators. Some of the indicators require further development, but the total MCH MI package constitutes a solid foundation for subsequent work, as well as for ongoing modifications that are essential if the Model Indicators are to remain responsive to MCH needs.

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