Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Maternal and neonatal health within applied global health research

The aim of this area of investment is to fund innovative applied research to address the global burden of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. Proposals may include issues pre-conception, during pregnancy and birth, or in the postnatal period.

This is funded through the applied global health research board, which is an ongoing initiative with annual funding rounds.
Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

The scope and what we're doing


Every year worldwide, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Of this combined total, 98% occurs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), along with 99% of maternal deaths.

In addition to maternal and neonatal mortality, morbidity also needs to be addressed, moving beyond survival to have a transformative effect on the long-term health of mother, father and baby.

If we are to achieve the targets set out in sustainable development goal (SDG) three (health), more research is needed to improve our ability to prevent, predict, detect, treat and manage neonatal and maternal health problems.

Meeting such a wide-ranging challenge requires the involvement of multiple disciplines and an understanding of issues faced:

  • pre-conception, including around contraception
  • during pregnancy and birth
  • postnatal where morbidities are not necessarily life-threatening but can have significant impact on quality of life and future reproductive health.

Scoping and priorities

Applications must be applied in nature, in line with the remit of the applied global health research board. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • implementation science
  • health policy research
  • health systems research
  • health economics.

Areas of focus

The following are areas of particular focus:

  • the implementation and scale-up of proven, cost-effective interventions to reduce neonatal mortality
  • maternal and neonatal care in humanitarian settings, particularly for those who have endured complicated pregnancies or traumatic birth experiences
  • the provision of respectful care following discharge from hospital for families with live or stillborn babies or following an aborted pregnancy. Effort should be made to move beyond solely keeping in touch with mothers and babies towards providing quality, respectful follow-up focused on physical, mental and social wellbeing
  • management of non-communicable disease leading to maternal mortality in the period following discharge from hospital
  • digital technology solutions for effective dissemination of information on reducing pregnancy risks
  • examining the impact of changes to national or regional health policy on maternal and neonatal outcomes
  • targeted intervention to improve pre-conception health beyond traditional fortification and supplementation, for example:
    • promoting healthy lifestyle choices
    • improved health literacy
    • better nutrition before and between pregnancies
  • contraception and sociocultural issues around women’s reproductive rights.

You should ensure that your research team involves all key stakeholders, including those who would be implementing the proposal such as midwives and obstetricians.

Building capacity for midwives to engage in research activity is particularly encouraged.

Who to contact

MRC international


Last updated: 17 August 2023

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