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INTRODUCTION

WHY WE NEED AN UPDATED GLOBAL STRATEGY

Today we have both the knowledge and the opportunity to end preventable deaths among all women, children and adolescents, to greatly improve their health and well-being and to bring about the transformative change needed to shape a more prosperous and sustainable future. That is the ambition of this Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

The previous Global Strategy achieved great things between 2010 and 2015.1 It galvanized political leadership, attracted billions of dollars in new financial commitments and created Every Woman Every Child, a powerful multi-stakeholder movement for health (see Annex 1).2 The United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health3 resulted in a landmark Accountability Framework and an independent Expert Review Group (iERG)4, and the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health strengthened the availability and supply of essential interventions.5 Several global action plans and reports were launched to address and bring attention to neglected areas with support for country implementation (see Annex 1). Millions of lives were saved and progress towards the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was accelerated.2 Strides were made in areas such as increasing access to contraception and essential interventions, reducing maternal and child mortality and malnutrition and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.2,6,7

However, far too many women, children and adolescents worldwide still have little or no access to essential, good-quality health services and education, clean air and water, adequate sanitation and good nutrition. They face violence and discrimination, are unable to participate fully in society, and encounter other barriers to realizing their human rights.2,6,7 As a result, as the MDG era draws to a close, the annual death toll remains unacceptably high: 289,000 maternal deaths, 2.6 million stillbirths, 5.9 million deaths in children under the age of five—including 2.7 million newborn deaths—and 1.3 million adolescent deaths.8,10 Most of these deaths could have been prevented. Many more people suffer illness and disability and fail to reach their full potential, resulting in enormous loss and costs for countries both today and for future generations.

That is why this updated Global Strategy is essential. We urgently need it in order to complete the unfinished work of the MDGs, to address inequities within and between countries and to help countries begin implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without delay.
This updated Global Strategy, spanning the 15 years of the SDGs,11 provides guidance to accelerate momentum for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. It should achieve nothing less than a transformation in health and sustainable development by 2030 for all women, children and adolescents, everywhere.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE GLOBAL STRATEGY?

This Global Strategy is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than its predecessor. It is universal and applies to all people (including the marginalized and hard-to-reach), in all places (including crisis situations) and to transnational issues. It focuses on safeguarding women, children and adolescents in humanitarian and fragile settings and upholding their human rights to the highest attainable standard of health, even in the most difficult circumstances.

For the first time, adolescents join women and children at the heart of the Global Strategy. This acknowledges not only the unique health challenges facing young people, but also their pivotal role alongside women and children as key drivers of change in the post-2015 era.

By investing in the right policies and programmes for adolescents to realize their potential and their human rights to health, education and full participation in society, we can unleash the vast human potential of this “SDG Generation” to transform our world.

This Global Strategy takes a life-course approach that aims for the highest attainable standards of health and well-being—physical, mental and social—at every age. A person’s health at each stage of life affects health at other stages and also has cumulative effects for the next generation. Moreover, the Global Strategy adopts an integrated and multisector approach, recognizing that health-enhancing factors including nutrition, education, water, clean air, sanitation, hygiene and infrastructure are essential to achieving the SDGs.

The survival, health and well-being of women, children and adolescents are essential to ending extreme poverty, promoting development and resilience, and achieving the SDGs..

HOW WAS THIS UPDATED GLOBAL STRATEGY CREATED?

The updated Global Strategy builds on all the essential elements of its predecessor, including:

  • Support for country-led health plans
  • Integrated delivery of health services and life-saving interventions and commodities
  • Stronger health systems
  • Sufficient numbers of skilled and well-equipped health workers
  • Good-quality services
  • Innovative approaches
  • Improved monitoring, evaluation and accountability

More than 7,000 individuals and organizations informed the drafting process through a global consultation supported by Every Woman Every Child.

The World Health Assembly 2015 and consultative regional meetings hosted by the Governments of India, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates were important occasions for consultation. Several partners developed technical papers that provided a strong evidence base for the Global Strategy; these papers were subsequently published in The BMJ.12 Many stakeholders also participated in public consultations organized by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (the Partnership).

Details of the consultation process and technical inputs are available at: www.everywomaneverychild.org.