Global Stillbirth Policy Review – Outcomes And Implications Ahead of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Agenda

Document Type : Original Article


1 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

2 Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive & Child Health Centre, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

3 Division of Data, Analytics, Planning and Monitoring, UNICEF, New York City, NY, USA

4 Global Surgery Division, Department of Surgery, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

5 School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


Globally, data on stillbirth is limited. A call to action has been issued to governments to address the data gap by strengthening national policies and strategies to drive urgent action on stillbirth reduction. This study aims to understand the policy environment for stillbirths to advance stillbirth recording and reporting in data systems.

A systematic three-step process (survey tool examination, identifying relevant study questions, and reviewing country responses to the survey and national documents) was taken to review country responses to the global 2018-2019 World Health Organization (WHO) Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Policy Survey. Policy Survey responses were reviewed to identify if and how stillbirths were included in national documents. This paper uses descriptive analyses to identify and describe the relationship between multiple variables.

Responses from 155 countries to the survey were analysed, and over 800 national policy documents submitted by countries in English reviewed. Fewer than one-fifth of countries have an established stillbirth rate (SBR) target, with higher percentages reported for under-5 (71.0%) and neonatal mortality (68.5%). Two-thirds (65.8%) of countries reported a national maternal death review panel. Less than half (43.9%) of countries have a national policy that requires stillbirths to be reviewed. Two-thirds of countries have a national policy requiring review of neonatal deaths. WHO websites and national health statistics reports are the common data sources for stillbirth estimates. Countries that are signatories to global initiatives on stillbirth reduction have established national targets. Globally, nearly all countries (94.8%) have a national policy that requires every death to be registered. However, 45.5% of reviewed national policy documents made mention of registering stillbirths. Only 5 countries had national policy documents recommending training of health workers in filling out death certificates using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 for stillbirths.

The current policy environment in countries is not supportive for identifying stillbirths and recording causes of death. This is likely to contribute to slow progress in stillbirth reduction. The paper proposes policy recommendations to make every baby count.


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  • Receive Date: 15 May 2022
  • Revise Date: 21 July 2023
  • Accept Date: 31 July 2023
  • First Publish Date: 05 August 2023