Countdown’s activities are guided by four principles:
- Focus on coverage
Timely data on intervention coverage are essential for good program management. Governments and their partners need up-to-date information on whether their programs are reaching targeted groups. Such coverage information must be supplemented, of course, with measures of intervention quality and effectiveness.
For interventions proven to reduce mortality, coverage is a useful indicator of progress. Increases in coverage show that policies and delivery strategies are reaching women and children. Failures to increase coverage — assuming that resources have been adequate and that planning has been good — are a cause for urgent concern. District, regional, and national managers and their partners should address low coverage rates by examining how interventions are delivered and removing bottlenecks or revising service delivery plans.Countdown’s reports and profiles provide the best and most recent information on country-level progress in achieving intervention coverage, and offer a basis for documenting accomplishments and revitalizing efforts where needed.
- Build on existing goals and monitoring efforts
Countdown aims to sharpen and reinforce efforts already under way to support countries in meeting their commitments to global goals, and to further the effective use of information collected through existing monitoring mechanisms. Emphasis on measuring progress towards international goals and targets has rapidly increased the availability of intervention coverage data. Today’s maternal and child survival indicators reflect a united effort to define and measure indicators consistently, permitting the assessment of trends over time.
Tracking through Countdown complements and promotes country-level monitoring of maternal, newborn, and child health programs. Country-level monitoring focuses on ensuring that policies, plans and resources are in place, and that programs and strategies are implemented fully and adequately; key outcomes for assessing program implementation include access, quality, coverage, and equity. Methods and indicators for monitoring purposes must provide timely information and must reflect country-level needs and decisions. Countdown aims to build on country-level data, attracting attention and resources for addressing service delivery barriers and to further speed up progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals.Countdown complements country-level monitoring efforts by focusing on indicators that are closer to impact and that can be measured in ways that permit cross-country comparisons and the estimation of global trends. Coverage indicators meet these criteria, as do many indicators of the impact of program activities on the nutrition and health status of women, newborns, and children. Efforts to identify and define indicators of policies, financial flows, and human resources that are sufficiently valid and reliable for global monitoring began in 2005 and have continued in subsequent Countdown reports.
- Promote effective interventions
Countdown monitors coverage for interventions and approaches feasible for universal implementation in poor countries and with proven effectiveness in improving maternal and child survival and nutrition.
- Maintain a country orientation
Countdown aims to help countries and their development partners achieve the Millennium Development Goals. While Countdown will not and should not supplant governments and their partners in their roles as policy makers and service providers, its role extends beyond monitoring — making public health science a basis for public health action. By bringing together diverse individuals with complementary experience, Countdown participants hope to spark and support new insights and concrete directions for improving the health and survival of women and children.