Disney movies often spring from the tragedy of a maternal death– think Cinderella, Snow White, Bambi, the Fox & the Hound, Finding Nemo, Beauty & the Beast and on it goes. We know that not only is the premature death of any woman is a tragedy, but that obviously there are effects for at least a generation. But Alicia Yamin and colleagues published an article this summer that looks in depth at the longer-term effects of maternal death in three regions in Tanzania (Rufiji, Kilombero, and Ulanga) where a diversity of ethnicities and religions are represented and maternal mortality is particularly high. The study is a qualitative study, meaning that the authors used semi-structured interviews to capture the views, words and experiences of those affected by a maternal death; fathers, family members and others are interviewed. The findings point to the underlying low status of women and girls as being a pervasive issue throughout the life cycle
Today, The Lancet launched a special issue featuring the Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation, a report by the Lancet’s Commission on Investing in Health which lays out a vision for dramatically improving health and reducing disparities in health by 2035. The report follows up on the seminal Investing in Health, the 1993 World Development Report, offering a more comprehensive view and even stronger evidence of the economic case for investments in health, with both an agenda for future action and a review of the evidence of major achievements in improving health since the 1993 WDR was published. From the “Global health 2035″ report: A unique characteristic of our generation is that collectively we have the financial and the ever-improving technical capacity to reduce infectious, child, and maternal mortality rates to low levels universally by 2035, to achieve a “grand convergence” in health. With enhanced investments to scale up health technologies and systems, these rates in most low-income and middle-income countries would fall to those presently seen in the best-performing middle-income countries. Achievement of convergence would prevent about 10 million deaths in 2035 across low-income and lower-middle-income countries relative to a scenario of stagnant investments and no improvements in technology.
Image credit: Jack Zalium, Flickr Written by: Kate Mitchell, Maternal Health Task Force The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and PLOS Medicine are committed to creating a platform for sharing critical evidence for approaches to improving maternal health around the world. The two organizations are also committed to ensuring that this important evidence is free and accessible for all. Last week, the two organizations published a joint editorial and call for papers in PLOS Medicine for the third year of the special collection of open-access research on maternal health, themed Integrating health care to meet the needs of the mother–infant pair. The editorial and call for papers mark the third year of partnership between the MHTF and PLOS Medicine.
This post was written by Tamil Kendall, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Women and Health Initiative Globally, HIV and complications of childbearing are the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age. The epicenter of poor maternal health outcomes associated with HIV is sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of pregnant women living with HIV reside. In this region, women with HIV are six to eight times more likely to die during pregnancy and the postpartum period than HIV-negative women, approximately a quarter of maternal deaths are due to HIV, and WHO estimates that maternal mortality has actually increased in eight countries with high HIV prevalence over the past 20 years. Addressing the intersections between HIV and maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa is necessary to make good on international and country commitments to end preventable maternal mortality and achieve an AIDS-free generation. Fortunately, we know what some of the problems are and how to address them: In 2012, only 49% of pregnant African women were tested for HIV—scaling-up voluntary HIV counseling and testing to reach 90% of women attending prenatal care is needed to support women to access treatment for their own health and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
In “How evolution of the human brain shaped women’s sexual and reproductive health,” an article published recently in Reproductive Biology Insights, Mahmoud Fathalla explores the ways that biological dimensions of human evolution have contributed to reproductive risks – but also their responses. For example, he notes that assistance during childbirth was just one practice that emerged in response to the evolution of human biology, pointing out that: “If the human female tries to catch the baby’s head herself, and to ease it out, she may break its neck. This is why midwifery may have been the oldest human profession. Birth attendance, however, carried the risk of infection in the days before asepsis, anti-sepsis, and antibiotics.” He continues, pointing out that while women have continually borne the brunt of many poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, the evolution of the human brain and the scientific advances it has enabled have offered many advances for women’s health. For example, when it comes to maternal mortality, Dr.
Guest post by Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers As an OB/GYN who has worked in dozens of developing countries, I have seen firsthand what it’s like to give birth in places where resources are strapped and conditions are bleak. I’ve seen the way women struggle to gather the money needed to give birth at a facility. I’ve seen women walk miles – while in labor no less – to reach the closest health clinic or hospital. I’ve seen women get to a facility only to find that it’s overcrowded, understaffed or lacking in critical medicines and supplies. And for all these reasons, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing women die in pregnancy and childbirth, their deaths often hand tallied on the walls of health facilities, if counted by the system at all
This week, The Lancet launched a series on the remarkable progress and remaining challenges for improving health in Bangladesh, focusing on what The Lancet’s Bangladesh study team calls the Bangladesh paradox: remarkable progress on health- n spite of persistent economic hardship. In a commentary that highlights the country’s commitment to gender equity, economist Amartya Sen argues, “It is important to understand how a country that was extremely poor a few decades ago, and is still very poor, can make such remarkable accomplishments particularly in the field of health, but also in social transformation in general.” Along with the remarkable health gains in Bangladesh, the series also highlights critical challenges. As The Lancet’s Pamela Das and Richard Horton write: “This is a story not only of unusual success, but also one that describes the frailties and challenges that lie ahead as the country charts a course towards universal health coverage.” Among the major issues that articles in the series tackle are the persistent challenges for improving health in the country’s growing urban slums. In one article, authors Kaosar Afsana and Syed Shaba Wahid of BRAC point out that in urban slums: Many women die in slums during pregnancy and childbirth. Mortality of children younger than 5 years in slums is almost double that in rural areas. Two-thirds of these deaths could be avoided if timely, appropriate services were available
In this month’s edition of the web seminar series organized by our colleagues at IDEAS, Dr. Tanya Marchant, IDEAS Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology will lead a session on writing a scientific paper for peer review publications. The seminar will offer tips for key elements in the development of a research paper, including crafting key messages, identifying target journals and working through the peer review process. It will be held tomorrow, November 20, at 9:30 GMT and can be accessed online here. As with all seminars in the series, the seminar will be recorded and available for viewing on the IDEAS resources page
Just when you thought there could be no more revered – or feared – days of observance, along comes ‘World Toilet Day’ again to remind us how far we have NOT come. Our hopes were so high that the Gates Foundation would solve this dire dilemma, only to come up short like the last square on the roll. $40 million dollars in funding simply flushed with no viable solution. The basic facts remain unchanged that one in three women and girls lack even basic sanitation services.
Young Champions 2013 Over the course of the last nine months, the Young Champions have each designed projects focused on a specific maternal health challenge. While conducting work in Nigeria, Ethiopia, India and Mexico, the Young Champions have dealt first-hand with the challenges of implementing their projects in their home countries. They have been documenting their progress on the Young Champions blog. Each year, millions of women worldwide give birth without the help of a trained health worker. In Bulakori, Nigeria, Young Champion Ashiru Adamu helped a woman give birth to a healthy baby boy
Guest post by Alison Chatfield, Project Manager at the Women & Health Initiative, on behalf of the International Fetal and Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century (INTERGROWTH-21st) Every year, 15 million babies are born too soon – that’s 1 in every 10 births. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn deaths globally, affecting every country; it’s the leading cause of newborn deaths in the U.S. and many other high-income countries, but the burden disproportionately affects Africa and South Asia, where 60% of the world’s preterm births occur. On World Prematurity Day, it is important to highlight areas where important progress has been made for preterm babies and identify some emerging priorities for improving the quality and effectiveness of their care, especially for the parts of the world most affected by preterm death and disability. An important progress point is an improved definition of prematurity that shifted from a weight-based, to a gestational-age based, focus. Earlier definitions of prematurity used weight (i.e.
This week, as donors, health program leaders, researchers, policy makers and advocates from around the world are meeting at the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa to discuss evidence, programming and policy priorities for achieving the goal of “full access, full choice” for family planning. Some of the biggest news from the conference has been in the area of commitments to the FP2020 agenda, which was launched at last year’s London Summit on Family Planning. FP2020 released the first progress report on the initiative, highlighting developments such as commitments, accountability, innovation, collaboration and the agenda for evaluating progress that have emerged since the initiative. What is more, the report release coincided with new commitments from five countries with some of the world’s highest levels of unmet need for family planning .
World Prematurity Day is this Sunday, November 17, and beginning Friday, November 15, organizations around the world will be highlighting the critical challenge of addressing premature birth. Groups will publish new evidence and convene discussions to build awareness and accelerate action on premature birth in many ways. Highlights of this year’s commemoration of World Prematurity Day include the following: New research on preterm birth will be published on November 15 in the journals Pediatric Research and Reproductive Health Every Woman Every Child is hosting a discussionat UN headquarters in New York and organized by USAIDand the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia on November 15. The discussion will highlight cost effective solutions, new research, support for families and the Every Newborn action plan, which is set to launch in May 2014. Although RSVPs may no longer be accepted, you can follow the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtags #worldprematurityday and #EveryNewborn The Twitter discussion will continue at #worldprematurityday as part of a 24-hour global Twitter relay on November 15-16
Guest post by Kelsey Holt, Harvard School of Public Health The third biennial International Conference on Family Planning kicked off this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with almost 3,000 attendees from all over the world gathering in the remarkable African Union building. Delegates are seeking inspiration from leaders in the field, youth, and colleagues, and an opportunity to share research and best practices related to the vision of “Full Access, Full Choice” in family planning. The speeches given during the opening session of the conference Tuesday on sustained political commitment emphasized family planning as a tool to reduce maternal mortality and protect women’s rights. The successes of Ethiopia’s health care system in reducing “unmet need” for contraception in a short period of time— in part thanks to an impressive health extension worker program— and the country’s commitment to reproductive health and women’s equality were celebrated widely. John Kerry and other world leaders also urged renewal of the various commitments made to achieving universal reproductive health access for all beginning in the 1990’s as well as the recent FP2020 goal of reaching 120 million new contraceptive users by the year 2020