Shifting research priorities in maternal and child health in the COVID-19 pandemic era in India: A renewed focus on systems strengthening

Kayur Mehta, Sanjay Zodpey, Preetika Banerjee, Stephanie L. Pocius, Baldeep K. Dhaliwal, Andrea DeLuca, Sangeeta Das Bhattacharya, Shailendra Hegde, Paramita Sengupta, Madhu Gupta, Anita Shet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The remarkable progress seen in maternal and child health (MCH) in India over the past two decades has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to undertake a rapid assessment to identify key priorities for public health research in MCH in India within the context and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods A web-based survey was developed to identify top research priorities in MCH. It consisted of 26 questions on six broad domains: vaccine preventable diseases, outbreak preparedness, primary healthcare integration, maternal health, neonatal health, and infectious diseases. Key stakeholders were invited to participate between September and November 2020. Participants assigned importance on a 5-point Likert scale, and assigned overall ranks to each sub-domain research priority. Descriptive statistics were used to examine Likert scale responses, and a ranking analysis was done to obtain an “average ranking score” and identify the top research priority under each domain. Results Amongst the 84 respondents from across 15 Indian states, 37% were public-health researchers, 25% healthcare providers, 20% academic faculty and 13% were policy makers. Most respondents considered conducting systems strengthening research as extremely important. The highest ranked research priorities were strengthening the public sector workforce (vaccine preventable diseases), enhancing public-health surveillance networks (outbreak preparedness), nutrition support through community workers (primary care integration), encouraging at least 4–8 antenatal visits (maternal health), neonatal resuscitation to reduce birth asphyxia (neonatal health) and screening and treatment of tuberculosis (infectious diseases). Common themes identified through open-ended questions primarily included systems strengthening priorities across domains. Conclusions The overall focus for research priorities in MCH in India during the COVID-19 pandemic is on strengthening existing services and service delivery, rather than novel research. Our results highlight pivotal steps within the roadmap for advancing and sustaining maternal and child health gains during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0256099
JournalPloS one
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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