National leadership: driving forward the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
BMJ 2015

Targets, as one would expect, are easier to set than to achieve. At the end of this year the millennium development goals for reducing maternal and child mortality will remain unmet.1 While most maternal and child deaths can be prevented using proved cost effective interventions,2 a range of factors—from poor governance to the lack of a skilled health workforce—affect its delivery at scale. This is especially true for the poorest people in low to middle income countries (LMICs), where the burden is highest.

Not surprisingly, numerous calls have been made for effective leadership to prioritise women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health needs and to accelerate progress. While this requires the presence of a committed leader, this alone is not enough. Institutions within and outside government are equally important: they help to sustain leadership, enable resilience to shocks, and further the achievement of development goals.3 4 This is the focus of our paper. Drawing on lessons learnt from LMICs, we highlight how national leadership can put the updated global strategy into practice.