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Blog Examines 3 Maternal Health Programs In Sub-Saharan Africa

“In developing countries where access to health care during pregnancy can be scarce or grossly underused due to lack of education, financial costs, and proximity to health centers, women die unnecessarily from pregnancy and birth complications,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. However, “[i]nternational agencies and developing country governments are working in partnership to reduce maternal death rates in order to meet the goal of reducing by 75 percent the number of women who die during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately afterwards, in the most vulnerable countries,” she writes, and highlights three projects in sub-Saharan Africa that are working to save maternal lives (8/29).

Peruvian President Announces Launch Of Government Fund To Fight Child Malnutrition

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Monday said the country’s central government and regional governments would provide $1.03 million to a fund aimed at reducing child malnutrition, Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times reports. “Humala said the government aims to lower the [child malnutrition] rate to 10 percent by 2016, from 23 percent in 2010,” according to the news service (8/28). “These funds, he said, will be used for the comprehensive care of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, the provision of vaccines, social programs, among others,” Bernama/NNN/Andina write. According to the news services, “The announcement was made during the signing of the National Commitment to the Coordinated Fight Against Child Malnutrition, which Humala described as a ‘concrete measure which must bring together all regional governments.'” He said, “What we want to do is eradicate malnutrition. As a government, we are going to fight as hard as we can to eradicate it,” the news services report (8/29).

Ambassador Rice Lauds India's Role In Fighting Polio, Ensuring Child Survival

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday spoke at a reception at the U.S. Embassy in India meant “to highlight the Call to Action initiative against child mortality,” Zee News reports (8/29). Rice “[l]aud[ed] India’s role for taking on the challenge as a co-convener of the ‘Child Survival Call to Action,’ a global initiative launched jointly by the governments of United States, India and Ethiopia in collaboration with UNICEF,” the Business Standard writes (8/28). According to her remarks, Rice said, “Thanks to advances in technology, knowledge and expansion of health programs, as well as the leadership of countries such as India, today it is possible to eliminate preventable child death. India’s success in nearly stopping the transmission of polio shows what can be achieved with a program of focused and well-coordinated international cooperation” (8/28).

UNICEF Official Calls For Increased Investment In Child Mortality To Achieve MDGs; New U.N. Estimates Due Next Month

Mickey Chopra, chief health officer at UNICEF, has called for increased investment in reducing child mortality, the Guardian reports, writing Chopra “said investment now would lead to massive strides in meeting the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters (MDG4) and the deaths of children under five by two-thirds (MDG5), both by 2015.” The newspaper adds, “Since 1990, annual maternal deaths have declined by almost half and the deaths of young children have fallen from 12 million to 7.6 million in 2010,” but “many countries — especially in Africa and south Asia — are not making progress” (Tran, 8/28) “Given current trends, the child mortality goal set out by U.N. officials won’t be reached until 2038,” according to U.N. researchers, LiveScience notes.

Politico Examines Republican Party's Abortion Platform In Relation To Other Countries' Policies

Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney'” (Brinkley, 8/27).

Fear Of Stigma Prevents Pregnant Women From Seeking Prenatal Care, Studies Show

Though many pregnant women are aware that treatment could save their lives and the lives of their infants if they test HIV-positive during prenatal care, a new study and literature review have found that a “[f]ear of being stigmatized as an AIDS patient is still a major barrier to good medical care for pregnant young women in many countries,” the New York Times reports. The study, published last week in PLoS Medicine, was “based on a survey of 1,777 women in rural Nyanza Province in Kenya,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “Only 44 percent of mothers in the province delivered in clinics, and the study found that a major obstacle was that they feared HIV tests.” The study’s author, Janet Turan, a professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in July also published “a review of multiple studies in many countries” that documented multiple accounts of “stigmatizing behavior,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 8/27).

Study Links Maternal Obesity To Newborn Death In Sub-Saharan Africa

“For the first time researchers have discovered a link between overweight and obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and infant mortality,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gate’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “In a study published in The Lancet this month, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine show a definitive correlation between maternal obesity and the prevalence of neonatal deaths (infants who die in the first 28 days of life) especially before two days of age.” She continues, “Now that there is growing maternal obesity in sub-Saharan Africa — albeit slow — this poses a stark contrast to the traditional indicators of neonatal deaths such as underweight mothers and lack of access to health services and trained health workers for pregnancy and delivery in developing countries” (8/24).

Despite Controversy, WHO Not Likely To Change Its Stance On Misoprostol Use

Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”

Study Finds 'Inconclusive' Evidence To Support Use Of WHO-Backed Drug To Prevent Hemorrhage During Labor

According to a study published Monday in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “[t]he World Health Organization [WHO] should review its approval of a drug used to prevent life-threatening bleeding in women in childbirth because there is not enough evidence that it is effective,” Reuters reports. The study finds that “the evidence to support the use of misoprostol is ‘at best inconclusive,’ yet it is increasingly used in poorer countries to prevent postpartum hemorrhage (PPH),” the news service writes, noting “researchers analyzed 172 previous studies on the use of misoprostol during labor and found that only six had enough information to say whether or not the drug was effective in preventing PPH in rural and community settings in poor countries” (Kelland, 8/20).

Child Mortality At Twice The Emergency Rate In South Sudan Refugee Camp, MSF Reports

“Children in a refugee camp in South Sudan are dying at more than twice the rate internationally recognized as an emergency, according to new figures [.pdf] released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” the Guardian reports. “On an average day in the Yusuf Batil camp … three or four children under the age of five will die,” but, “[i]n a ‘normal’ emergency situation, the number would be one or two deaths daily for every 10,000 children,” the news service writes. “The overall mortality rate, which takes into account adults and older children, is also substantially above the emergency threshold,” according to the Guardian, which adds, “About 58 percent of the camp’s reported deaths have been children under five, while more than 25 percent have been people over 50” (Copnall, 8/20).