Policy expertise

Better health outcomes for women and children: Strengthening cross-sectoral planning

Policy Area
Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH)
September - December 2013
OPM contact

This project is helping to promote cross-sectoral approaches to the key issues that shape health outcomes for women and children across the globe. Building on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 and achieving the ambitious goals for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) depends upon collaborative efforts to address the various inter-related social, economic and environmental factors underpinning women’s and children’s health.

OPM led a team of specialist experts to prepare strategy briefs for the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) spanning a range of sectors identified as having an impact on RMNCH. The team conducted rapid reviews of literature and synthesised the latest evidence in each area, highlighting its relevance to health issues. With a focus on translating research into policy, each brief includes practical strategies and case studies and identifies key supporting tools and technologies. The evidence and recommendations provided in each sector brief are helping to inform the post-2015 development debate more broadly.

Across the world, women and children remain disproportionately exposed to a number of preventable health risks. Progress towards the MDGs for maternal and new-born health has been slow with many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia lagging behind other countries. Health outcomes are linked to a number of inter-related social, economic and environmental determinants spanning issues as wide-ranging as water and sanitation, gender equality and education. The 2011 Africa Multisectoral Strategy for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) recognised the importance of strengthening collaboration between ministers from these varying sectors to help improve the health status of women and children across the continent. This project was established to support the process through the provision of timely, reliable evidence aimed at informing effective cross-sectoral planning and policy-making.


We led a team of experts to develop strategy briefs on cross-sectoral approaches to women’s and children’s health. Work focused around the production of a series of policy papers that synthesise the latest evidence form different sectors, highlighting its relevance to health outcomes and drawing out key approaches and practical lessons useful for policy-makers and practitioners. The team included technical experts with specialist knowledge in each of the sectors identified by PMNCH as well as considerable experience in translating research into actionable strategies. The approach to preparing the briefs was designed to emphasise their usefulness as strategic tools to support the policy-making process. Each brief follows a consistent format, summarising information in a clear, concise, easy-to-read way that incorporates case studies, a policy ‘toolkit’ and steps to identify key stakeholders and engage them in effective policy dialogue around health issues.

Specific areas of work included:

  • Conducting rapid literature and documentation reviews
  • Undertaking expert analysis and synthesis of evidence
  • Preparing a series of nine strategic policy briefs covering sectors including education, nutrition, water and sanitation and gender
  • Developing presentation slides highlighting key messages and data


The strategy briefs developed with our support are strengthening cross-sectoral approaches to the key issues that shape health outcomes for women and children across the globe. By highlighting the importance of including health indicators as outcome measurements across different sectors, the briefs provide a blueprint for a more inclusive, comprehensive model of RMNCH policy-making. More broadly, the evidence presented in the briefs is feeding into discussions on the post-MDGs agenda, helping to ensure that issues around women’s and children’s health remain central to the wider development debate.

Senior Consultant and Portfolio Leader
Economic Policy Programme Director