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Maternal and neonatal health


This Board opportunity seeks to address the burden of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in low and middle income countries (LMICs) by funding high-quality applied research. Proposals may address issues pre-conception, during pregnancy and birth, or in the postnatal period. We particularly encourage research proposals addressing the health of the newborn.

Applications for small- and large-scale activities are welcomed and will be assessed in the same way.


Every year, worldwide, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. 98% of this combined total occurs in 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 3 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, and postnatal where morbidities are not necessarily life-threatening but can have significant impact on quality of life and future reproductive health.

Applicants should ensure their research team involves all key stakeholders, including those that would be implementing the proposal such as midwives and obstetricians. Building capacity for midwives to engage in research activity is particularly encouraged.

This Board opportunity is informed by the joint MRC-NIHR Overview of Global Maternal and Neonatal Health Research Priorities (see top-right of page).


Applications must be applied in nature, in line with the remit of the Board. This includes, but is not limited to, implementation science, health policy research, health services research, health systems research, and health economics. Full remit details are available on the Our Science and Contacts page. Examples of priority research areas within the pre-conception, pregnancy and birth, and postnatal periods, as well as cross-cutting themes relevant to all areas, can be found in the Overview of Research Priorities. Note this document was published prior to the launch of the Applied Global Health Board and thus includes basic research priorities which are now outside of the remit of the Board.  

Briefly, subject areas may comprise (but are not limited to):

  • The implementation and/or 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 and/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 toward 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 (e.g., promoting healthy lifestyle choices, improved health literacy, and better nutrition before and between pregnancies).
  • Contraception and sociocultural issues around women's reproductive rights.