Insights in Public Health Surveillance for Maternal and Newborn Health


The journey from pregnancy to childbirth and beyond is a complex process that requires careful attention, informed decision-making, and collaborative efforts from healthcare and public health practitioners, policymakers, researchers, women and their families, and society as a whole.

Hosted by

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)’s Data, Surveillance and Foresight Branch (DSFB) and the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID).

Date and time: January 30, 2024 |1:00 to 2:00 Eastern Time / 12:00 to 1:00 Central Time 

Language: The seminar is delivered in English.


At a global scale, progress on reducing maternal mortality has stagnated, and it is estimated that there is a preventable death related to pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes. Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly “Target 3.1” on maternal mortality, this seminar aims to highlight the pivotal role of public health surveillance to measure and monitor the impact of public health threats on pregnant women and their infants. Surveillance not only involves monitoring, but also proactively shaping strategies for thoughtful and relevant care and preventive measures that advance maternal and newborn health outcomes. 


Maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality remain significant public health challenges, particularly in regions where access to competent and culturally safe healthcare is limited. Effectively addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, with a primary focus on ensuring that maternal and newborn services are appropriate and sufficient. These services involve prenatal care, skilled attendance during childbirth, postnatal care, and family planning, which are all key components in ensuring the well-being of mothers and their newborns.  

Ensuring access to quality maternal and newborn health services is not only a health imperative but a fundamental human right. It directly contributes to creating a world where women can navigate pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood safely, and reducing the burden of preventable maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality as outlined in the SDGs.  

Public health surveillance provides a systematic and data-driven approach to monitor and assess the population’s health, identify trends, and implement targeted interventions. In the context of maternal and newborn health services, surveillance can facilitate the collection and analysis of data related to maternal and newborn health indicators. This, in turn, enables public health and healthcare systems to proactively respond to emerging threats.  


Learning objectives 

By the end of this seminar, participants will be able to:

  • Provide an overview of Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN), Ontario 
  • Outline surveillance activities at BORN Ontario 
  • Discuss methodological issues associated with surveillance in the maternal newborn population 
  • Louis Wong, Acting Manager, DSFB, PHAC  
  • Luisa Arroyave, Post-doctoral Fellow, NCCID 


Dr. Deshayne Fell 

Adjunct Professor, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa 

Affiliate Investigator, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute 

Dr. Deshayne Fell is a perinatal epidemiologist, appointed as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa and as an Affiliate Investigator in the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Her research uses large, linked population databases and registries to improve our understanding of factors affecting maternal and infant population health. Her specific focus includes infection and immunization during pregnancy and their relationship with birth outcomes and longer-term pediatric health outcomes, including safety and effectiveness of maternal immunization. Dr. Fell has been a member of two WHO Technical Advisory Groups related to maternal immunization. 

Dr. Ann Sprague 

Project Advisor at Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN) Ontario 

Dr. Ann Sprague has worked in direct patient care, as a regional perinatal coordinator, as the founding Scientific Manager of BORN Ontario, as a researcher and mentor to many students and team members.  She has obtained grants, led teams and fostered research and published.  She is currently a project advisor for BORN responsible for COVID-19 surveillance and research, investigating maternal and infant mortality, and mentoring research and analysis team members. 

Dr. Gillian Alton 

Epidemiologist, Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN), Ontario 

Dr. Gillian is an epidemiologist at BORN Ontario and an investigator with CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa. Dr. Gillian’s work at BORN focuses on applied public health surveillance and research. In March 2020, Dr. Gillian put her infectious disease surveillance background to use working on COVID-19 in pregnancy surveillance in Ontario and COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy research. 

Access Instructions 

All instructions for the seminar series will be posted on the Zoom registration page and will be emailed to all registrants prior to the event. Following the event, recordings and slides for each seminar will be posted on this page.

Accreditation statement 

Surveillance Advances is a self-approved group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Surveillance Advances is also approved by the Council of Professional Experience for professional development hours for members of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors.