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Huffington Post, Johnson & Johnson Partner To Launch ‘Global Motherhood’ Forum

Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece about the launch of the Global Motherhood partnership between Johnson & Johnson and the Huffington Post. “The Huffington Post and Johnson & Johnson have collaborated to create this forum focused on global motherhood, a place to share ideas and experiences for improving maternal and child health,” she writes, adding, “We hope that the Global Motherhood section will give voice to the people and organizations that are making a difference and inspire others to join in this effort” (1/18).

Study Finds Global Abortion Rate ‘Virtually Unchanged’ From 2003 To 2008

“After a period of substantial decline, the global abortion rate has stalled, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO)” published in the Lancet on Wednesday, a Guttmacher press release reports. “Between 1995 and 2003, the overall number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44 years) dropped from 35 to 29” but, “according to the new study, the global abortion rate in 2008 was virtually unchanged, at 28 per 1,000,” the press release states. “This plateau coincides with a slowdown, documented by the United Nations, in contraceptive uptake, which has been especially marked in developing countries,” according to the press release. “The researchers also found that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, … almost all unsafe abortions occur in the developing world,” and “restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower rates of abortion,” the press release adds (1/18).

Harare Maternity Clinics Reportedly Conducting Compulsory HIV/AIDS Tests On Pregnant Women

“In a move that is likely to raise the ire of HIV/AIDS activists, maternity clinics in [Harare] are conducting compulsory HIV/AIDS tests on pregnant women before they can register for delivery,” the Zimbabwean reports, adding, “Scores of pregnant women in the high-density suburb of Glen-Norah told this newspaper that they were being asked to bring their spouses [to be tested] if they wanted to register to deliver their babies.” According to the newspaper, “The Zimbabwean visited [a clinic] in Glen-Norah where workers confirmed they had turned away ‘a few’ people so they could bring their spouses for testing.”

Questions Raised Over Accuracy Of Afghanistan Mortality Survey Data

“A U.S.-sponsored mortality survey released last year announced huge improvements in health across Afghanistan. But the gains are so great that experts are still arguing about whether it’s correct,” NPR’s All Things Considered reports. The 2011 $5 million Afghanistan Mortality Survey, which was funded by USAID with a contribution from UNICEF, showed huge gains in life expectancy and maternal and child mortality compared with data from 2004, NPR says, noting, “But believing the new numbers are accurate probably means accepting that the old numbers were way off, which makes it impossible to say exactly how much health has really improved.”

Threefold Increase In Polio Cases In Afghanistan Concerns Experts

The New York Times examines how after years of decline, the number of recorded polio cases in Afghanistan tripled in 2011 to 76, following only 25 cases in 2010, raising concerns among international health experts that polio is seeing a resurgence, “particularly since some of the cases erupted far outside the disease’s traditional areas in Afghanistan.”

Estimating Number Of Births Without Skilled Birth Attendants In South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).

Experts Debate Pros, Cons Of Sierra Leone’s Ban On Traditional Birth Attendants

The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog asks whether Sierra Leone was right to ban traditional birth attendants (TBAs) from assisting deliveries 18 months ago, writing, “Although [TBAs] are often poorly trained and sometimes use unsafe delivery procedures, for most women in rural Sierra Leone they are a lifeline.” The blog writes that “some experts believe women are putting themselves at serious risk by relying on TBAs, who cannot handle obstetric complications such as hemorrhage, eclampsia and obstructed labor, conditions that account for three-quarters of maternal deaths,” but, “[i]n areas where dense jungle and impassable roads make travel nigh-on impossible, the TBAs may also be the only available helping hand.”

Gates, Kristof Answer Questions About Bangladesh, Public Health In Final Installment Of Blog Series

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this third and final installment of the series on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about assessing and incorporating the needs of women and children in Bangladesh into development initiatives and discuss the global health activities about which they are most excited and optimistic (1/13).

Afghan President Karzai Urges Taliban To Allow Polio Vaccination Teams Into Insurgent-Controlled Areas

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday “urg[ed] the Taliban to allow teams conducting a polio vaccination campaign access to areas under their control” and “said that whoever hampers the medical workers ‘is the enemy of our children’s future,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/17). “A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year — a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that “Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunization teams to vaccinate children” (1/17).

HHS Secretary Sebelius Helps India Mark One Year Since Last Recorded Polio Case

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “administered polio vaccination drops to children in New Delhi on Friday as India marked one year since its last case of the crippling disease,” the Associated Press reports (1/13). The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that “[o]fficials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] say U.S. funding and experience were key to beating back the disease,” but “[t]he news comes as federal funding for global health programs now faces sharp cuts from Tea Party lawmakers and others worried about the deficit” (Pecquet, 1/12). “­Globally, the U.S. government has provided $2 billion for the polio eradication campaign, Rotary International has raised about $1 billion from its members, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion,” and the CDC “weighed in with crucial expertise,” the Washington Post writes (Denyer, 1/12).