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USAID Annual Letter Discusses Global Health Initiatives

PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog presents global health-related excerpts of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s annual letter that was published on March 9. Shah touches on programs to improve infant and child health; water, sanitation and hygiene; malaria prevention; HIV/AIDS care; and health care in several countries, including Afghanistan, Ghana and Ethiopia, according to the blog (3/9).

GHI, Uganda Working Together To Improve Maternal, Child Health Outcomes

A feature article in the Ugandan Observer examines a recent agreement signed by the U.S. and Ugandan governments “to drum up more support for maternal and reproductive health in Uganda.” U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) Executive Director Lois Quam spoke at the signing, saying, “Investment in health in Uganda is one of the largest we make anywhere else in the world. Government must do more. They must put in more resources. Too many mothers die because they are giving birth to too many children. Far too many women lose their lives,” according to the Observer.

Former British PM Gordon Brown Publishes Report Examining Child Marriage, Proposes ‘Global Fund For Education’

“Child marriage is a one-way ticket to a life of poverty, illiteracy and powerlessness for girls and the international community needs to take urgent action to stop it,” according to an analysis (.pdf) published Friday by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Guardian reports. “Brown’s review, seen exclusively by the Guardian, says that the issue of child brides has been ‘conspicuous by its absence’ in the efforts to cut global poverty, bring down child and maternal death rates and get children into school, which are stated Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015,” the newspaper notes.

Challenges To Achieving An AIDS-Free Generation

In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).

World Commemorates International Women’s Day

Speaking at an event at U.N. Headquarters to commemorate International Women’s Day, which is observed annually on March 8, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [on Wednesday] joined other senior United Nations officials … in highlighting the potential of rural women to improve the well-being of entire societies if given equal access to resources and set free from the discrimination and exploitation that hold them back,” the U.N. News Centre writes, noting this year’s theme is “Empower Rural Women — End Hunger and Poverty.” “He acknowledged that women are increasingly exercising greater influence in business, government, politics, public administration and other professions” and that “more girls are going to school and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential,” the news service writes (3/7).

International Women’s Day Provides Opportunity To Renew Commitment To World’s Girls

In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, Kate Roberts, vice president of corporate marketing, communications and advocacy at Population Services International, marks International Women’s Day, to be recognized on March 8, and its 2012 theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” She says “the story of Facebook exemplifies precisely why the global community needs to invest in young minds and young leaders — especially girls,” and speculates what might have happened if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “had been born a girl in Rwanda.” Roberts outlines what could happen to Rwandan girls growing up, including dying because of malaria or diarrhea before age five; missing out on educational opportunities; dying in childbirth at a young age; or contracting HIV.

Congress Must Protect International Family Planning Funding

“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).

Yemen To Launch Measles Vaccination Campaign After Increase In Number Of Cases, Deaths

“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.

World Bank Should Re-Evaluate Programs To Reduce Maternal Mortality

“The World Bank boasts that it has positioned itself as a ‘global leader’ in reproductive health, especially for youth and the poor,” but in 2011, it dedicated “just 0.2 percent of its $43 billion budget” to reproductive health projects, and much of that money was provided as loans, which can “leave poor countries indebted and threaten to divert domestic spending away from vital public health services,” Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator at Gender Action, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In addition, “[t]here is a striking mismatch between countries’ maternal mortality rates and the bank’s spending on reproductive health,” Arend states, citing the examples of Sierra Leone, where the lifetime average risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth is one in 35 and the World Bank provides $7.43 per person, versus Niger, Liberia, or Somalia, where women “face an average lifetime one in 17 risk of maternal death, yet these countries receive no reproductive health funding from the bank at all.”

IRIN Examines Pilot Project To Increase ORS Coverage For Treatment Of Child Diarrhea

IRIN examines ColaLife — a pilot project set to start in Zambia in September 2012 that will ship single-dose anti-diarrhea kits (ADKs) in crates of Coca-Cola bottles in an effort to increase the coverage of oral rehydration salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhea in children in the developing world. “Three-quarters of [diarrhea-related] deaths could be prevented with a simple course of [ORS] combined with zinc tablets, at a cost of just $0.50 per patient,” but, “despite being heavily promoted by the World Health Organization since the 1970s, fewer than 40 percent of child diarrhea cases in developing countries are treated with ORS,” the news service writes.