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Notes From Philadelphia Global Health Journal Club Speaker Series

Dr. Lyndon Haviland, MPH, DrPH, presented last Friday to members of the public health and public policy communities about maternal health issues and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and the overall landscape of global public health issues relating to women and children.

Dr. Haviland, a fellow at the United Nations Foundation, among other organizations, talked extensively about her experiences in international public health and her assessment of the challenges that many countries continue to face in the areas of Women’s and maternal health.

Millennium Development Goals
Dr. Haviland spoke about the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the approaching 2015 deadline that was set for the goals when they were adopted by the U.N. in 2000. She reported that Maternal and Child Health are the only targets lagging behind the progress made in all other areas of development. She pointed to the successes achieved by Brazil in expanding universal access to basic health care, and the commitment that has been made in that country to meeting all of the target areas set by the U.N. In countries that are falling short of the goals Dr. Haviland pointed to lack of political will and subsequent political and governmental funding as likely barriers. Rwandan president Paul Kagame was lauded for his commitment to making the MDG a priority since he took office. Common themes of success in a country meeting the MDG are political leadership, goal-setting in policy, and follow through.

Maternal Mortality
Common among all countries are the leading contributing factors to maternal mortality. Among the poorest citizens, leading conditions are: Sepsis, early age of 1st birth, HIV, Primary Pulmonary Hypertension, and extremely limited or no access to health services. Among more affluent citizens: preeclampsia, later births, immigration status, and limited access to health services. Different approaches to lowering maternal mortality include microfinance initiatives, mobile (cell phone) initiatives, and conditional cash transfer programs, and are all being pioneered in multiple countries.

Realizing the Global Strategy for Women’s & Children’s Health
Dr. Haviland also stated that there are three work streams that are critical to realizing the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health:
  1. Implementation of commitments at the country and global level: realization of the Global Strategy relies on commitments made by low income countries- national platforms require support from stakeholders and funders
  2. Development of global accountability framework
  3. Building momentum and expanding global commitment
The link between population family planning and food (in)security was also emphasized as an important point to begin our domestic conversation about how to improve health outcomes for American women and children.
To learn more about the Global Strategy for Women’s Health and to download a .pdf of the literature discussed, visit the WHO website.


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