Women Deliver 2013 begins four months from today!

More than 5,000 participants are expected to descend upon Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to attend plenaries, workshops, and forums to discuss building a better world for women and girls.This 3rd Global Conference could not be more timely as the public health conversation evolves from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their successes and failures to the challenges that await women and girls worldwide in the post-2015 agenda.

As a Women Deliver conference advisory group member and gold-level sponsor of this conference, MSH is honored and proud to support this conference. For over four decades, MSH has promoted equal access to health care for women by strengthening health systems. “MSH improves services that directly affect women— maternal and child health, family planning, HIV & AIDS—through the integration of those services, enabling more accessible and efficient care for entire communities. The success of this work depends on building the capacity of women as leaders and managers, technical experts, clinicians, and community health workers,” said Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH President and CEO.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offers his encouragement saying, “A [Women Deliver] global conference in 2013 offers an opportunity to keep up the pressure and to affirm our plans for the period ahead. By giving mothers-to-be the services they need before, during, and after pregnancy, and by providing quality health care to all women, we can save lives, prevent suffering, and accelerate progress toward all the Millennium Development Goals.”

In the lead up to the conference, be sure to check back here for the latest updates from MSH.

Saving Newborns in DRC: Supporting Safer Deliveries through “Helping Babies Breathe”

Thirteen newborns die every hour in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). So on July 23, when 25-year old Immaculée went into labor with twins at the Monvu Reference Health Center in the Idjwi Health Zone, and her first twin was born without signs of life, the chances of survival were not in his favor.

The odds are stacked against newborns in the DRC: neonatal mortality hovers around 97 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and has done so for years, explaining the acute need for intervention in this area.

Recognizing this need, the USAID-funded DRC-Integrated Health Project(DRC-IHP), in conjunction with the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Ministry of Public Health, organized a “Helping Babies Breathe” training in Kinshasa in April 2012, to build the capacity of health providers who oversee labor and delivery.

Helping Babies Breathe is an evidence-based neonatal resuscitation approach designed for resource-limited areas, which teaches health workers how to handle newborns’ breathing in their first minute of life, a critical period known as the “Golden Minute.”

Present at this training was the head of the Monvu Reference Health Center Maternity Ward. Three months later, she knew exactly what to do when Immaculée went into labor and suffered the complication of a prolapsed cord, so that the first twin arrived not breathing on his own.

The midwife revived the baby using the techniques taught at the Helping Babies Breathe training, which included assisted ventilation with a bag and mask. After five minutes, little Dieudonné took his first breath and let out a low cry. The midwife then recommended the baby be warmed using the Kangaroo Care method, resting skin-to-skin on his mother’s chest, another practice used to improve newborn survival, which she had also learned through training supported by DRC-IHP.

Today, Dieudonné is healthy. Immaculée, who lost a child in the same maternity facility before the midwife was trained in Helping Babies Breathe, is grateful to now have two healthy sons. And six months after the HBB training, the midwife has resuscitated a total of 19 babies, increasing the odds for all babies born in this Sud Kivu facility.

Led by Management Sciences for Health with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, DRC-IHP is working to improve the basic health conditions of the Congolese people in 80 health zones in four provinces.

Dr. Mireille Meta, the author of this blog, is a health technical specialist with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) based in Bukavu, DRC. Marianne Stone is a grants manager with the IRC, based in Kinshasa.

‘Investing in Asia’ Supplement to USA Today: Featuring an Interview with MSH President & CEO Dr. Jonathan D. Quick

Investing in Asia” (PDF), a new supplement published by MediaPlanet as part of its “Investing in Development” series, hit newsstands in select markets of USA Today on Friday, December 21, transporting readers to the Asian continent.

MSH President and CEO Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was interviewed in the “Panel of Experts” section. Asked by MediaPlanet “Why is now the time to invest our time, energy, and abilities into the Asian continent?,” Dr. Quick said:

MSH is driven by the ancient Chinese Tao of Leadership, working shoulder-to-shoulder with our local colleagues for their success. China and India, two of Asia’s most populated countries, are moving toward universal health coverage. Malaysia reduced maternal deaths. Afghanistan’s thousands of community health workers have increased access to family planning. Asia’s populations are hit hard by chronic diseases, including cancer, lung and heart disease, and diabetes. Now is the time to make even greater impact.

Read the full interview in the publication, “Investing in Asia” (PDF).

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What’s Next for Family Planning? Boston Global Health and Development Leaders Convene, Highlight Rights-Based Approach, Role of Civil Society, Partnerships

On November 13, 2012, Boston-area international health and development groups — MSH, Pathfinder InternationalJohn Snow, Inc. (JSI)Ibis Reproductive Health, and the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) — came together to host a luncheon discussion on the “London Summit on Family Planning: Where do we go from here?”

Panelists included Monica Kerrigan of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Sandra Jordan of USAID; Kyle Peterson of FSG; and Adrienne Germain, the winner of the United Nations Population Fund’s 2012 Population Award and a fellow at the HSPH. Pathfinder International President and CEO Purnima Mane moderated the conversation.

David Canning, PhD, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences at HSPH and author in the recent series on family planning in The Lancetopened the conversation with a keynote presentation on the economic benefits of family planning. He outlined that the evidence for maternal and child benefits of family planning are strong and that family planning is not only about reducing number of children, it’s about healthy timing and spacing and lower risk births. He said:

“There is no gold standard evidence yet for the economic benefits of family planning but family planning reduces fertility; women’s health, work and earnings increase; and children are healthier and better educated.

Reduced fertility and child mortality lead to an increased proportion of working-age people within the population, with positive outcomes for economic growth.”

Involving Civil Society and Creating a Movement

Monica Kerrigan, Deputy Director of Family Planning at the Gates Foundation, said that making family planning a priority, as Melinda Gates promised a year ago, is an occasion of change in US and around the globe.

“Providing rights of women and girls to determine if, how many children they want to have, is part of a changed moment but an unfinished agenda.

The London Summit doubled funding for family planning but we need to reach out and involve civil society and youth. We need to create that global moment for family planning.

We all have to dream big on where we want to be eight years from now. Can we grow civil society in the south? Youth and civil society need to go to their governments and hold them accountable.”

Access to Information is Key

Kerrigan continued that “we need to keep the mirror up on quality of care: quality information, quality counseling. The highest unmet need for family planning is post-partum time — need to space births by two years. We need to counsel better. One hundred percent of women should have access to this information. I met a woman in Senegal who had her 8th baby and had never heard of family planning- what’s that all about? We need to do better.”

Work Locally

Sandra Jordan, Senior Technical Advisor for Communications, Office of Population and Reproductive Health at USAID said,

“The US has longest history and commitment to family planning and is the largest donor. We are reaching out to our country missions as partners, working closely together, not duplicating work. Let’s hear voices from the global South loud and clear. We need recommendations on how USAID can do family planning work better.”

Public/Private Sector Partnerships

Kyle Peterson, Managing Director, FSG, who published a report on the London Summit called, Private Enterprise for Public Health: Opportunities for Business to Improve Women’s and Children’s Health, said,

“We need to have partnerships between the public and private sector. The private sector can help with innovation and delivery and have shared value in global health. It is not sufficient to develop and sell products, need to be involved in the ecosystem.

We need to involve young people- we haven’t captured their imagination yet regarding family planning or gotten them involved enough. We need to get the excitement back for family planning.”

“Family planning is a human right”

Adrienne Germain said people have now recognized that family planning is a human right. States have obligations to ensure that people have access to services and family planning must be delivered to meet human rights standards. These standards include:

  1. Choice of method (barrier, hormonal, short term, permanent): Barrier methods have to be more central due to reaching youth who don’t want permanent methods. Both male and female condoms need to be available.
  2. Fully informed and full consent on the methods and how to use them: There are still too many barriers with spouse approval now. Women need to be supported in changing methods that they don’t like.
  3. Privacy and confidentiality: Young people have a right to be protected. We need to improve training and supervision of staff to treat clients with respect and dignity.
  4. Technical medical quality: decent and clean facilities; reasonable hours, access; seating; shelter from rain; screens for privacy.

She also added, “There is no attention being given to women who want to have children. We need to make sure they have safe birth, avoid STDs and have access to safe abortion as needed.”

Germain continued: “[I hope everyone can] keep the vision of Cairo – an integrated package of care grounded in human rights — accessible to all who need it.”

Barbara Ayotte, the author of this post, is director of strategic communications at MSH.

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