“While reports from the United Nations as well as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicate that maternal deaths are declining around the world, far too many women continue to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth,” Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “In fact, every 90 seconds a young woman dies unnecessarily when she is giving life,” she continues, noting, “More than 90 percent of these deaths could be avoided, if all women had timely access to good quality care.”
Access to Health Services
“The United Nations estimates the civil war raging in Syria has left more than 2.5 million people in dire need of food, water, drugs and medical supplies,” VOA News reports. “After 18 months of fighting, thousands are dead and thousands more wounded,” and, “[i]f past wars are any indication, the health and well-being of Syrians will likely be affected long after the last guns are fired,” the news service writes. WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic “says many hospitals and health centers in [the capital] Homs have been badly damaged by shelling” and “[o]nly six of 12 public hospitals remain open, and eight out of 32 private hospitals are still in operation — at greatly reduced capacity,” VOA adds.
“Supplies — the essential medicines and medical equipment frontline health workers need to successfully do their jobs — are a vital part of the solution to saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Catharine Taylor, a maternal health expert with PATH, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And yet, they are frequently overlooked in the ongoing conversation about how to improve maternal health in the developing world.” She continues, “All the skilled health care workers in the world can’t deliver the care women need if a clinic’s stock is empty and the next round of supplies is weeks away. Reliable availability of maternal health medicines and supplies will ultimately strengthen health care systems and make frontline health workers more effective.”
In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, Monica Kerrigan, and Wendy Prosser of the foundation discuss a new partnership announced on Wednesday at the U.N. to improve access to contraceptive implants for women in the developing world. The program, part of the FP2020 initiative to increase access to modern contraceptives, “will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and children and prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies by giving women access to information, supplies and services to delay, space and limit her births,” they write. “This new development puts the power in women’s hands with information, services and contraceptive methods they need and want,” they state, concluding, “Most importantly, though, it allows women in some of the poorest regions of the world the chance to make their own choices about how to plan their families” (9/27).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reflects on changes in U.S. global health diplomacy since taking office in this Global Health and Diplomacy opinion piece. “America had been leading the global health fight for decades,” but “we recognized that to sustain the impact of our work, we needed to change the way we did business,” she writes. “For example, while our agencies were providing tremendous leadership in isolation, they could still do more to collaborate effectively,” she writes, adding, “[W]e weren’t doing enough to coordinate our efforts with other donors or our partner countries,” and “we weren’t building sustainable systems to eventually allow our partner countries to manage more of their own health needs.” She says, “We were unintentionally putting a ceiling on the number of lives we could save.”
“African leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly called [Wednesday] for innovative solutions to accelerate the response to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to advance health for people on the continent,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “At their meeting at U.N. Headquarters, the leaders discussed the African Union (A.U.) Roadmap, which outlines long-term sustainable strategies to finance and provide access to HIV treatment and prevention services and other health services in Africa as called for in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the news service writes, adding, “Leaders echoed the need for strong political leadership and enhanced country ownership and, as a first step, agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap, according to a news release issued by UNAIDS” (9/26).
NPR’s “Shots” blog profiles Vanessa Kerry, a physician and daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and her work to develop the Global Health Service Partnership to send nurses and doctors to work abroad in exchange for a pay-down in their student loans. The partnership’s goal “is to reduce the severe shortage of medical workers in developing countries,” according to the blog, which adds Kerry “thinks the partnership will also strengthen health care here stateside by infusing U.S. doctors with a worldview centered on making the most of available resources.” The program is working with the Peace Corps and receives funding through PEPFAR, the blog notes (Doucleff, 9/26).
“When President Obama made a landmark speech against modern slavery on Tuesday, many of us in the news media shrugged,” but women survivors of human trafficking “noticed,” Nicholas Kristof writes in his New York Times column. “[T]he world often scorns the victims and sees them as criminals: these girls are the lepers of the 21st century,” he says, adding, “So bravo to the president for giving a major speech on human trafficking and, crucially, for promising greater resources to fight pimps and support those who escape the streets. Until recently, the Obama White House hasn’t shown strong leadership on human trafficking, but this could be a breakthrough. The test will be whether Obama continues to press the issue.”
Noting the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children on Wednesday “released 10 bold recommendations which, if achieved, will ensure women and children will have access to 13 life-saving commodities,” Jennifer Bergeson-Lockwood, a maternal health adviser with USAID, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog” that the agency is working “to integrate systems across commodities to better and more efficiently serve women and children everywhere, and scale up programs to have nation-wide impact.” She adds, “Country leadership is also a vital component to successfully addressing many of the Commission’s recommendations.” Saying that integration and country ownership “form the cornerstones of our work,” she continues, “With our host country partners in the lead, we are working to strengthen supply chains for commodities, which include use of mHealth solutions; support local market shaping; improve the quality of medicines; and increase demand by mothers for necessary medicines” (9/26).
The following blog posts were published in recognition of World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26.