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U.N., Partners Call For Greater Efforts To Fight Number One Killer Of Children On World Pneumonia Day

On World Pneumonia Day (WPD), recognized on November 12, “[t]he United Nations and its partners … called for greater efforts to eradicate pneumonia, the number one killer of children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the WHO, “pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” the news service notes (11/12). In a statement recognizing WPD, USAID said, “Thankfully, we have in our possession the tools needed to change the tide on these statistics. Now we need new ways to deliver badly needed health services and new ways to stimulate demand in the most rural pockets of the world” (11/12). “The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, a partnership of more than 140 government, international and philanthropic organizations, sponsors WPD,” IIP Digital adds (Porter, 11/9).

European Union Pledges $53M To Liberia To Help Halve Maternal Mortality Rates

“The European Commission on Thursday pledged 42 million euros [$53 million] to Liberia’s president and Nobel peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to help halve one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The announcement was made during talks between the Liberian leader and the E.U.’s development commissioner Andris Piebalgs,” the news agency notes (11/8). In particular, the funds “will be used for rehabilitating health centers, providing medical equipment, training health staff and many other activities aimed at improving health services in the country,” according to an E.U. press release. “The E.U. funding is part of the E.U.’s €1 billion [Millennium Development Goal (MDG)] initiative to foster global progress on the Millennium Development Goals before 2015,” the press release adds (11/9).

Pacific Island Nations Show Progress On Child Mortality MDG But Challenged On Reducing Poverty, Report Says

“The Pacific Islands are making steady progress on reducing child mortality, but most are struggling to eradicate poverty and generate employment for young and rapidly growing populations,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining how 10 of 14 nations in the region are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on child mortality. The 2012 Regional MDG Tracking Report (.pdf), recently released by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), “comes three years after PIF countries signed a compact to strengthen the co-ordination of resources to boost development progress,” IPS notes. Though many of the countries might reach MDG 4 to halve child mortality by 2015, “[h]alving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, as mandated by MDG 1, is a considerable challenge across the Pacific,” the news agency states. IPS discusses progress on the MDG goals for specific nations in the region. “The PIF believes that accelerated regional progress on the goals before 2015 is dependent on political will,” the news agency writes (Wilson, 11/7).

WHO Survey Shows Low Knowledge Level, Acceptance Of Polio Vaccine Among Pashtun Pakistanis

“Polio will never be eradicated in Pakistan until a way is found to persuade poor Pashtuns to embrace the vaccine, according to a study released by the World Health Organization” in its November bulletin, the New York Times reports. A survey of 1,017 parents of young children living in “Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the only big city in the world where polio persists, … found that 41 percent had never heard of polio and 11 percent refused to vaccinate their children against it,” according to the newspaper. Some parents from poor families “cited lack of permission from family elders,” Anita Zaidi, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, said, adding some wealthy parents said the vaccine was “harmful or unnecessary,” the newspaper notes. “Pashtuns account for 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases even though they are only 15 percent of the population,” the newspaper adds, noting poorer children are at a higher risk because they are more likely to be exposed to raw sewage, where the virus travels. According to the New York Times, “the eradication drive is recruiting Pashtuns as vaccinators and asking prominent religious leaders from various sects to make videos endorsing the vaccine” (McNeil, 11/5).

Keep Momentum Going To Pursue Innovation In Contraceptive Options

“[I]t has been a banner year for media attention, political will and global resources on family planning and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment,” Ward Cates, president emeritus of FHI 360; Laneta Dorflinger, a scientist with FHI 360; and Kirsten Vogelsong, a senior program officer with the family planning division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, write in the Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog, noting the London Summit on Family Planning, World Contraception Day, and the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. “To achieve the ambitious goals set forth by these international initiatives, however, the global health and development community must act on the current political momentum and not lose sight of the challenges that remain,” they state. Though there are “many contraceptive choices available to prevent unintended pregnancy,” access to contraception is limited for many women and “the currently available methods do not always meet their needs, preferences or budgets,” they write.

Aid Workers Warn Child Nutrition Reaching Emergency Levels In Northern Mali

“Aid workers say child malnutrition is reaching emergency levels in northern Mali, which has been under the control of armed militant groups since April,” VOA News reports. “Brussels-based aid organization Medecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World, says malnutrition rates among children under the age of five in occupied northern Mali are reaching ‘alarming levels,'” the news service writes, adding, “The NGO says it found that 13.5 percent of those children in the far northern Kidal region are suffering from acute malnutrition,” which is “double last year’s rate and well over the World Health Organization’s 10 percent alert threshold” (Look, 11/2).

WHO Reports On Global Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccination Efforts

“Four in five children (83 percent) worldwide received the recommended three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine during infancy in 2011, according to new data released in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and in the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER),” a WHO media note reports. According to the media note, “While substantial progress has been made, the new data show more than 22 million children, mostly living in less-developed countries, missed out on the three basic vaccinations during their first year of life in 2011” (11/1).

Global Wealth Inequality Threatens Progress Made In Reducing Child Mortality, Save The Children Report Says

While progress has been made worldwide in reducing child mortality, the effects have been unequal across income groups, and wealth inequalities are at the highest level in 20 years and increasing, according to a report (.pdf) from Save the Children U.K., BBC News reports (10/31). Released ahead of a meeting of a U.N. high-level panel on poverty taking place in London this week, the report, titled “Born Equal,” “argues that against a backdrop of overwhelming progress (extreme income poverty has dropped from two billion in 1990 to less than 1.3 billion today and child mortality has almost halved) the poorest of the poor have too often been excluded,” which “means that children living in the same country may have vastly different chances of surviving to the age of five, getting a good education and eating a nutritious diet,” a Save the Children press release states. Save the Children U.K. Chief Executive Justin Forsyth said, “Unless inequality is addressed, the [Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] and any future development framework will simply not succeed in maintaining or accelerating progress” in reducing child mortality, according to the press release (11/1).

High-Level U.N. Panel Meets In London To Discuss Post-2015 Global Development Agenda

A 26-member high-level U.N. panel is meeting this week in London to discuss the post-2015 global development agenda, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set forth in 2000 are set to expire, the Guardian reports and provides a questions and answers “about the progress, process, and thinking behind the next set of global development targets.” This marks the first substantive meeting for the panel of experts and politicians, who are tasked with developing a draft report for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon scheduled to be delivered in March, according to the newspaper. The theme of this week’s meeting is household poverty, the Guardian notes, and discusses how the panel’s work coincides with the Rio+20 summit and what might be included in the next set of development goals (Tran, 10/31). Another Guardian article features key datasets on the eight MDGs (Provost, 10/31).

Afghanistan, U.N. Agencies Working To Improve Routine Immunization As Winter Approaches

“Afghanistan is taking steps to improve its routine immunization coverage, after a drop in coverage led to a sharp increase in measles outbreaks last year, killing more than 300 children,” IRIN reports. “Experts say nearly 30 percent of the population has no or very poor access to primary health care, including immunization, and the percentage is estimated to be as high as 70 percent in areas of conflict in the south,” the news service writes, adding “decreasing vaccination coverage [is] due to rising insecurity, decreased access, difficult terrain and harsh winters,” as well as last year’s severe drought. “In the National Priority Programmes, which outline government priorities until 2015, the government admits many vaccinators lack initial training, and that budget shortages in past years prevented supervisory and monitoring visits by provincial level management teams,” IRIN states, adding that the WHO this year has implemented training programs and, along with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, has combined the measles and polio vaccination campaigns to better utilize resources (11/1).