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