A Formative Close to the Maternal Health Dialogue Series

By: Madeline Taskier, Strategic Partnerships Associate at Women Deliver

Yesterday, in Washington, DC, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Maternal Health Task Force, UNFPA, USAID Bureau for Global Health, and the African Population and Health Research Center co-hosted the last session of the two year maternal health dialogue series. The partners launched the report, “Delivering Solutions: Advancing Dialogue to Improve Maternal Health,” which captures the strategies and recommendations that emerged from the series.

Since December 2009, this maternal health dialogue series has hosted 28 sessions with over 100 panelists engaging in conversation and debate around some of the most pressing maternal health topics.   A total of over one thousand participants attended sessions on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and maternal health service integration to family planning in fragile states; new applications of existing communications technologies; and addressing maternal health in urban slums. The series focused on major challenges and opportunities for moving the maternal health agenda forward, and affirmed that solutions for saving the lives of women and girls are plentiful and powerful.

The report breaks down the recommendations and strategies into three main categories: social, economic, and cultural factors and gender inequity; health systems factors; and research and data demands. For each category, the report raises recommendations designed to help practitioners, advocates and policymakers take the steps needed to improve maternal health.

Here are some examples of key strategies that emerged from the discussions:

Social, Economic, Cultural Factors and Gender Inequity

  • Invest in young women through a multi-sectoral approach: education, sexual reproductive health and rights, and economic opportunity.
  • Work with religious groups and faith-based organizations to better coordinate efforts.
  • Improve nutrition for mothers and babies by making nutritional investments earlier in the lifecycle, by focusing on household food practices and through engagement of agricultural ministries and food programs.

Health Systems

  • Improve transportation and referral for maternal health.
  • Extend responsibility for maternal health to a broader cadre of workers, scale-up training and availability of midwives, and enhance task-shifting.
  • Expand distribution and access to essential maternal health supplies mainly: oxytocin, misoprostol, MVAs, and magnesium sulfate that address the 3 leading causes of maternal mortality.

Research and Data Needs

  • Build the research capacity of civil society and faith-based organizations by strengthening their ability to measure and assess their work.
  • Measure and assess maternal morbidities including: anemia, uterine prolapse, obstetric fistula, infertility, and maternal depression.
  • Study the contribution of mobile phones and mHealth to access and equity.

You can find the complete list in pages 2 through 8 in the report.

Above all, the panelists at this final session emphasized that political will is the key ingredient to implementing these strategies. While we know what the solutions are, more discussion is certainly needed to discover how to effectively generate political will to support and sustain them. One strategy raised by an audience member is the formation of a salient economic argument for saving women’s lives, backed by research. It’s simple: Governments will pay attention to maternal health when they are shown that economic growth and productivity cannot occur if girls and women continue to die during pregnancy and childbirth.

This report will be a critical advocacy tool and resource moving forward into the next generation of dialogue and action around maternal health. It represents the expertise and analyses of hundreds of maternal health experts, and is a testament to the importance of ongoing dialogue and information-sharing as we continue to identify innovative, life-saving solutions.

Check out “Delivering Solutions: Advancing Dialogue to Improve Maternal Health

Learn more from presentation by Margaret Greene, co-author of the report.

Entry Comments

    • Dec 19
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    I am not sure if this report was edited or if it was just not covered, but it certainly did not have enough information to point out the bottom-line problem: the current power-holders in health concerns are really the American Medical Association and the Nurses Association, which are in reality Labor Unions for all intents and purposes.
    These two organizations want to have the final say in the who and the how medical care is administered. Even though alternative medical care and natureopathic supplements has been shown to be, in the very least, as effective as the care and prescription medications given by Physicians. In many, many cases, the natureopathic course of care is superior to a large percentage of patients than traditional care offered by board-certified physicians.
    In the State of Oregon, there has been a growing interest of women to do the schooling and appreticeship in midwifery as well as women seeking midwifes for prenatal care and home births. But at every State Legislative Session, the large AMA and Nurses Assn. have Lobbyists who manage to overwhelm the State Senators and Representatives with undocumented evidence of the truth of any such occurances of improper or unsafe prenatal care or birthing procedures given by midwives. In the last decision of the efforts to make midwifery a prohibitive occupation to seek, is the increase of State Licensing fees to $3600 per year. In contrast, an OB-GYN Physician’s State License will cost 1/4 of that for TWO years. The Licensing Board for Physicians consists of peers who, like them, have been trained in their field of specialty. On the other hand, the Licensing Board proposed by the State of Oregon for Midwives will consist of Physicians trained in obstetrics. The protocols for prenatal care, use of drugs and/or supplements, birthing and then post natal care are NOT THE SAME for midwives as they are for obstetricians. Yet, Midwives would have to pass a Board based on obstetric protocols, not midwifery protocols.
    Some think that a person can become a midwife my simply having a baby and then they are qualified to be a midwife. Not so! The requirements for school and apprenticeship are long, intense and contain much, much more about the care for the mother during pre-natal, birthing, and post-natal periods. An appointment for a pregnant mother averages over an hour with her midwife as opposed to the 15 minutes an expectant mother can count on with an obstetrician. The deaths of babies during the birthing process in Oregon is higher with hospital, obstetric-attended births than it is with at-home or Birthing Center births with midwifes in attendance.
    How long do women have to wait to be able to have control over the manner in which they birth their babies? How often do they have to rally on the steps of the Oregon Capital hoping to be heard by Legislators? How long do Midwives in Oregon have to forego licensing due to an inappropriate uneducated Board, as well as a prohibitive cost for the license. Oh, and by the way, licensing is not required for midwives to practice, unless they want to be able to have insurance coverage. The steps being taken by the Oregon Legislature is actually prejudicial to low-income expectant women who do not have insurance. Like I said before, how long do women have to wait to be the sole decision-maker in birthing their children?

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