The end of 2015, which marks the conclusion of the 25-year period (1990-2015) for reaching the millennium development goals (MDG), is in sight and a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study looks at how well the world, particularly those parts of it at medium and low human development levels, has fared in the key area of maternal mortality two years before (1990-2013) the closing bell rings. Picking out the maternal mortality rate (MMR) benchmark (the number of mothers dying within six weeks of child birth per 100,000 live births) makes sense as it gives an idea of the state of mother and child care - which is a good proxy for the level of human development achieved. One of the goals set was to bring down the MMR by 75 per cent from its 1990 levels. Countries which had some distance to go in 1990 have been categorised as being "on track", "making progress" and "making insufficient progress".
There is, therefore, an urgent need to look at policies to do better in the future. Since it is the poor who cannot afford better private care and so contribute the most to India's relatively high MMR, there is an urgent need to raise the level of public spending on health care. Higher pay for government doctors and nurses, which a new pay commission award is likely to bring, will be a move in the right direction. This must go with vastly better administration. The various current schemes under the National Health Mission dealing with postnatal care must be reviewed at the highest level.