At the first biennial International Maternal Newborn Health Conference (IMNHC 2023) from May 8–11, 2023, nearly 1,800 stakeholders from over 95 countries came together in Cape Town, South Africa to accelerate solutions to improve maternal newborn health (MNH) and prevent stillbirths. Hosted by AlignMNH and the Government of South Africa, and in partnership with the maternal newborn health community, IMNHC 2023 included representatives from government, academia, local and international NGOs, civil society, and the private sector; researchers, donors, and multilateral partners; and more.
IMNHC 2023 marked a pivotal moment as we are at the midpoint of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) era and must accelerate progress to reach globally agreed upon goals and targets for MNH and the prevention of stillbirths. As the community came together to review global data, share the latest science and evidence, and deliberate on how to apply learning, the conference provided an opportunity to collaborate and foster strong connections as we look for demonstrated progress when we reconvene in 2025 and beyond.
PLANNING THE CONFERENCE
IMNHC 2023 was hosted by AlignMNH and the Government of South Africa, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the US Agency for International Development, and the World Bank. Conference planning included the leadership of governments from around the globe and additional support from partners. IMNHC supports working collectively to achieve the goals of the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) and Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM). The World Health Organization provided technical guidance in support to the conference.
AlignMNH is a global initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development. The initiative was founded in 2020 to accelerate progress in improving MNH outcomes and prevent stillbirths around the globe. AlignMNH is supported by a secretariat that is managed by Jhpiego, an international NGO focused on transformative health care solutions that save lives.
AlignMNH is guided by a steering committee of global thought leaders who provide overall strategic management and oversight to IMNHC and the overall initiative.HOSTS
To ensure the conference reflected a diversity of perspectives, the following five planning committees were formed:
• The Core Organizing Committee
• The Program Committee
• The Country Engagement Committee
• The Communications and Technical Advocacy Committee
• The South Africa National Planning Committee
Official country delegations
IMNHC 2023 offered a unique opportunity for country delegations to gather in person to network, exchange knowledge, learn from one another, refine country plans, and determine immediate actions post conference. Twenty-eight official country delegations were selected through an expression of interest and a competitive review process. Delegations had the opportunity to share learnings, innovations, and best practices through a special Country Showcase session at the conference.
WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM OUR PARTNERS CHAMPION
At IMNHC 2023, we offered a variety of sponsorship packages as an opportunity to raise brand awareness, promote initiatives, and reach our global network before, during, and after the conference. Among various offerings, sponsors had dedicated space in the onsite exhibition hall to network and engage with conference attendees, share their work, and solicit feedback on promising solutions. Thirty-two sponsors supported IMNHC 2023 and played a critical role in making the conference possible.
WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM OUR PARTNERS
ATTENDEES COUNTRIES SPEAKERS & PRESENTERS
FELLOWS PRESS FELLOWS
THE IMNHC PROGRAM: TRANSLATING EVIDENCE INTO ACTION
The program included abstract programming, drawing from science and evidence and concurrent thematic sessions content, and from programmatic experience and lessons learned in atypical session formats. Additionally, there were official and unofficial satellite events, a technical marketplace, and a country showcase. Nearly all aspects of the program were communityand application-driven, with more than 500 people signed up to review applications for various aspects of the program.
There were also seven plenaries across the three main conference days, reflecting both what we have learned about progress and the real challenges to accelerating and sustaining progress. Further, delegates learned about exciting new opportunities to address challenges.
The opening plenary featured remarks by Dr. Sandile Buthelezi, Director General for Health in South Africa. In the second plenary, Exemplars of Country Success in Improving Maternal and Newborn Survival, the Exemplars in Maternal and Newborn Health study was launched, with a focus on Ethiopia and Nepal. In the final plenary of day one—The Road to 90/90/80/80 for Maternal and Newborn Health: Progress and Gaps at SDG Midpoint—the Minister of Health of South Africa, Honorable Joseph Phaahla, set the stage for the importance of the conference and the week ahead in his keynote address. Following this, the first ever Joint Progress report for ENAP/ EPMM, Improving Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival and Reducing Stillbirth, was launched, including new coverage targets and a goal of 90/90/80/80.
What are the 2025 coverage targets?
ENAP and EPMM, together with country governments and partners at the national, regional, and global levels, have outlined coverage targets and milestones for critical essential health services to manage complications and reduce maternal morbidity, mortality, and stillbirths. These goals call for an increased focus on ensuring mothers and babies both survive and thrive.
Two plenaries on day two of the conference, How to Prioritize and Finance MNH Programs in Primary Health Care and Building Strong Systems to Deliver Quality MNH Services, recognized that many challenges remain, specifically around the financing for maternal newborn health and the need to improve and maintain quality, particularly beyond just looking at coverage.
The morning plenary on the third and final conference day, Imagine a World Where Mothers and Newborns…, featured six innovators
highlighting how new approaches like artificial intelligence and geospatial mapping can leapfrog progress. The conference ended with the closing plenary, Focus on the Future: Accelerating Evidence into Action, which highlighted the need for quality and accessible data to track progress and ultimately achieve targets, and featured remarks by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities of South Africa.
Across all seven official conference tracks, IMNHC 2023 highlighted efforts that demonstrate successful collaboration by different types of stakeholders, address equity gaps in MNH care and outcomes, and identify successful ways to reduce maternal and newborn morbidity, and mortality and stillbirths.
View the full conference program here.
GLOBAL GUIDELINES AND LOCAL ADAPTATIONS
STRENGTHENING QUALITY OF CARE
TARGETS AND METRICS
HEALTH SYSTEMS AND WORKFORCE
PREVENTION AND CLINICAL MANAGEMENT
INNOVATIVE TOOLS AND STRATEGIES
HUMANITARIAN AND FRAGILE SETTINGS
TOTAL OF ABSTRACTS
COUNTRY SHOWCASE, SHARING LEARNINGS FROM
~170 CONCURRENT THEMATIC SESSIONS
PLENARY SESSIONS, WITH OVER
TECHNICAL MARKETPLACE, SHOWCASING
THE PROGRAM IN NUMBERS
In preparation for IMNHC 2023, AlignMNH supported the development and initiation of the first-ever IMNHC Fellowship Program for early career MNH leaders. Envisioned as a professional development and networking opportunity, the Fellowship Program was open to individuals who 1) were between the ages of 18 and 35 at the time of the conference, 2) had worked in any aspect of maternal or newborn health for no more than five years, and 3) had at least a basic professional diploma/degree. Through dissemination of the application opportunity in MNH networks, AlignMMH was pleased to receive over 170 highquality applications for the 20 available Fellows slots. These selected Fellows represented the following professions: engineers; clinicians (physicians, midwives, nurses); researchers, including social scientists; program/project managers; monitoring and evaluation experts; nutritionists; advocates; communicators; and innovators. The inaugural cohort of Fellows can be viewed here
During IMNHC 2023, Fellows co-moderated sessions; participated in a Fellowship Program cocreation session following the formal conference program to identify recommendations for future iterations of the Fellowship Program; led a reflections/feedback session after the conference; and completed a post-conference survey.
IMNHC Press Fellows and media coverage
IMNHC Press Fellows
The IMNHC Press Fellowship was designed to bring select journalists interested in covering maternal newborn health and cross-cutting topics to the conference. Participating journalists had the opportunity to be on the ground for the duration of the conference and had exclusive access to session speakers and world and industry experts through media briefings, press conferences, and one-on-one interviews.
The fellowship was a fully funded opportunity and was open to reporters and journalists, as well as digital content creators and influencers. The Press Fellows were selected through a competitive application process, and ultimately 12 journalists from eight countries around the world were selected to come to Cape Town. The inaugural cohort of journalists can be viewed here
The Press Fellows ensured that news of the conference was heard around the world. In total, more than 40 original and syndicated stories were published in outlets that included Devex, NBC News, The Telegraph India, The Independent, and the Nation Media Group.
IMNHC media coverage
In addition to coverage from the IMNHC Press Fellows, a total of 157 pieces were published in South African media outlets, including 57 broadcast, 50 online, and 10 print, resulting in a reach of over 18.5K (i.e., individuals who saw the content). Top-tier media included the Daily Maverick, a leading South African source of news, opinion, and investigation; Independent Newspapers, one of South Africa’s largest and oldest media groups with a presence in most of the country’s provinces; Media 24, a highly respected and reputable media group; and SABC stations, South Africa’s national broadcaster.
Digital and online engagement
There were many engagement opportunities for onsite attendees and followers.
• The conference app facilitated the opportunity for participants to connect with each other, including allowing participants to follow up with speakers, reach out to country delegations, and set up networking meetings.
• During the week of the conference, the #IMNHC2023 conference hashtag saw 110 million impressions (i.e., the number of times content was displayed) via more than 4,600 tweets and 1,500 unique participants.*
• The seven plenary livestream recordings totaled over 7K views (all four languages combined).*
• Daily recap videos, the data-driven opening video, and the MNH Movement Maker Campaign video totaled over 4K views (i.e., a viewer watching three or more seconds of a clip).*
*data as of 5/13
REFLECTIONS AND FEEDBACK
The post-conference survey was an opportunity to hear directly from attendees about their experience. This input will inform future engagement from AlignMNH.
• 93% noted that overall they were satisfied with the content that was presented at IMNHC 2023.
• 96% noted that the topics presented at IMNHC 2023 were relevant/valuable to their work.
• 92% noted that they engaged with other conference attendees, particularly those outside of their organization.
• 89% noted that IMNHC 2023 facilitated growth of their professional network.
IMNHC 2023 was designed to be the first in a series of biennial conferences to accelerate solutions to improve maternal and newborn survival and prevent stillbirths in a coordinated and inclusive manner. To this end, it is just the start of the conversation and launch-point for action moving forward.
Every two years, we will come back together to review our progress and learn from one another to improve coverage, quality, and equity of maternal and newborn care and prevention of stillbirths. We will use these two-year reflection points to collaborate, take action, and make continuous progress towards our 2030 goals.
The opportunity you gave to the LMICs citizens to attend and even present was a great idea. Thank you. We look forward to more such like opportunities to learn, present and network with other scientists across the globe.
Watch the conference highlight video
Watch the daily recap videos
Watch the plenary recordings
View the session presentation slides
Read news and announcements
For more information:
The multicultural/multi-country approach was fantastic and worked well, and needs to be taken into the future. Also the inclusion of parent voices was a very necessary and powerful component of the conference.
– Attendee from South Africa
Thank you AlignMNH for the sponsorship and the opportunity to be a speaker. It was my very first platform; your team provided me with all the support I needed and I’m not stopping here.
– Attendee from Cameroon