Looking back over the past year, we have much to celebrate. The following list is not exhaustive, but recaps some of the most prominent maternal health-related milestones and events of 2010. As we push forward into 2011, we celebrate both the successes and solutions of the past year, as well as the barriers to success we can learn from in order to streamline our strategies to best reach MDG 5.
1. Maternal Deaths Dropping and Solutions to Celebrate, September 2010
Some good news! While maternal health statistics are often chilling, we cannot overlook the global achievements and country-specific successes of this year. The number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34% from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to an estimated 358,000 in 2008, according to a new report, "Trends in maternal mortality."
Additionally, our staff consistently reports on country-specific successes in maternal health through our Celebrate Solutions series. Stay tuned as we continue to profile country accomplishments and technological advancements.
2. Delivering Solutions for Girls and Women: Women Deliver Conference, June 2010
The Women Deliver 2010 conference joined 3,400 advocates, policymakers, development leaders, health care professionals, youth, advocates, and media representing 146 countries from June 7-9 in Washington, DC. More than 800 speeches and presentations were given at 6 plenaries and 120 breakout sessions regarding the role of commitment, leadership, youth, politics, monitoring, accountability, and investments in ensuring maternal health. Read the top 5 highlights from the conference, and listen to and watch the multimedia Stories of Mothers Saved project from UNFPA and White Ribbon Alliance that was displayed during the conference.
Richard Horton, the editor of the The Lancet, called the 2010 Women Deliver conference “the most significant event for the future of women and children in 20 years” and Melinda Gates declared that the Gates Foundation would commit $1.5 billion in new grant money for maternal and newborn health during the conference.
The success of this conference comes from the support and action of the diverse players, from UN agencies to NGOs, from government officials to funders. This collaboration is necessary to move forward in overcoming obstacles towards reaching MDG 5.
3. Calls for Action: Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, September & November 2010
In September, a variety of stakeholders from the private, government, international, non-profit, and research sectors pledged new commitments to maternal health—including over $40 billion—at the official launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health during the global summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MGS). Track these commitments at the official website for the program, Every Woman, Every Child.
To catalyze action regarding the challenges ahead, Women Deliver co-hosted a brunch “Accelerating Action on the MDGs: Delivering for Girls, Women, and Babies,” as a prelude to the MDG Summit at the UN in September. Speakers and group discussions echoed concerns about the remaining barriers, and again highlighted the importance of accountability, integration, synergy, and commitment (financial and political) in achieving the goals. Details here.
In November, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Partner's Forum gathered for a follow-up meeting in Delhi to discuss the development of these commitments to action. The outcome document, Delhi Declaration 2010 – “From Pledges to Action and Accountability,” emphasizes the importance of unity and accountability within the context of the common goal to improve and ensure women’s, newborns’ and children’s health, development and human rights.
4. G8/G20 Commit to Improving Maternal Health, June 2010
This year, the leaders of the G8 countries pledged a total of $5 billion to maternal, newborn, and child health, prioritized maternal and child health in the G8 Communiqué, and launched the Muskoka Initiative to accelerate efforts towards improving maternal and child health. These leaders reaffirmed that despite overall declining rates of maternal mortality, progress is “unacceptably slow,” and identified solutions to maternal mortality like: strong health systems, sexual and reproductive health care and services, and family planning. Details here.
In addition, the G20 decided to create a Working Group on development issues for the first time ever, adding a social approach to their usually finance-heavy work. The G20 leaders stated, ““Narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to our broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all.”
5. The Renewal of the Maputo Plan at the 15th African Union Summit, July 2010
With your support, we called on the African Heads of State to revitalize their 2006 commitment to sexual and reproductive health through the renewal of the Maputo Plan. We asked that these leaders promote family planning, focus on youth, strengthen health systems, and advance and protect women’s and children’s rights. In July, African leaders acknowledged the fundamental role that women play in the development of their countries, and agreed to invest in women.
6. Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi Shares Knowledge, August 2010
The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) co-hosted the Global Maternal Health Conference, uniting 700 maternal health experts to share experiences, lessons, neglected issues and innovations surrounding MDG 5. Pam Barnes, President of EngenderHealth highlighted five issues that emerged during conference:
1) Solutions must be allocated to the right resource personnel; solutions are not effective unless they can be distributed.
2) Creative solutions to limited health professionals must be brainstormed, for example ‘task shifting.
3) Accountability. Barriers to achieving MDG 5 are both in and outside the clinic; advocacy is essential for checks and balances.
4) Maternal health is horizontal; “connecting the dots” between cultural, social and economic variables that affect maternal health and other Millennium Development Goals.
5) Community-and facility-based maternal care is (locally) context specific.
The Maternal Health Mapping Project, a project to link maternal health resources to each other in-country and worldwide, was highlighted at this conference.
7. Mifepristone, Misoprostol, and Birth Control Pills Celebrate Anniversaries, May and September 2010
In September, we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s approval of mifepristone, commonly known for its use in combination with misoprostol in medical abortions. These drugs have significantly changed the experience of abortion by increasing access, ease and privacy, as well as providing women a choice between a medical or surgical option when ending a pregnancy.
Mother’s Day marked the 50th anniversary of the approval of the birth control pill in the US. Women Deliver paid special homage by holding an all-day symposium on reproductive health technology, “50 Years after the Pill — The Revolution Continues,” during the Women Deliver Conference.
While we applaud the milestone that these reproductive health technologies represent, we must acknowledge the millions of women, mostly in developing countries, continue to face barriers in access, affordability, and use.
“When a woman is able to manage her fertility, she is better able to manage her life and to realize her full potential as a human being,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “This has tremendous positive implications for her family, her community, and her country, and is a solid cost-effective solution to maternal deaths worldwide. The advent of the birth control pill in the US sparked a revolution. We must support the continuation of the revolution for women worldwide, by ensuring affordable access to contraceptives for all individuals.”
8. Corporates Engage with Global Health Issues and Organizations, May and June 2010
This year, the Global Summit for Women in Beijing attracted over 1,000 women to discuss advancing women’s economic opportunities and promoting women in leadership. At this year’s meeting, the Global Summit’s Consortium of Women to End Cervical Cancer highlighted ongoing efforts to combat cervical cancer, one of the most common and avoidable conditions in women’s health, especially prevalent among and detrimental to women in the developing world.
In June, leaders from science, industry, policy, medical practice, and public health met at the Pacific Health Summit to address challenges that face maternal and newborn health with the goal of forging new alliances and public-private partnerships focused on innovation, implementation, and collaboration. The theme of the 2010 event was: “Maternal and Newborn Health: The Crux of a Decent Humanity.”
At the Women Deliver 2010 conference, corporates stepped forward to discuss “Doing Business and Doing Good.” At the conference, there were 37 corporations with 70 individuals represented. This engagement included sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, and participants, and there were three corporate concurrent sessions covering a range of topics: public-private partnerships, mobile technologies, and investing in girls and women. Read guest columns and news from our corporate partners. Watch a video of Corporate Engagement at Women Deliver Conference 2010, and watch a speech from Mikkel Vestergaard at the brunch in September.
9. mHealth and Mobile Technology Innovations Take Center Stage, November 2010
Over 2,700 tech gurus, government officials, non-profit organizations, researchers and private sector companies attended the mHealth Summit in DC at the Washington Convention Center. This event was the culmination of year-long discussions on using mobile technology and innovations to improve global health. The Maternal mHealth Initiative, a working group within the mHealth Alliance, was launched in June with the goal of reducing maternal and infant mortality in developing countries and engaging a wide variety of cross-sectoral stakeholders across both the public and private sectors. In addition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and announced the establishment of an MDG 5 Innovation Working Group (IWG) which will focus on mobile technology.
Successful pilot projects are already in the works – read about mHealth solutions to maternal health, training and mobile health technology in Rwanda, the mWomen Programme launched by Cherie Blair and Hillary Clinton, Mobile Health for Mothers launched by Johnson & Johnson, FrontlineSMS:Medic, and Text4Baby.
10. New Year’s Resolution: Keep Pushing!
While we can celebrate many solutions, we still face challenges ahead. The global maternal mortality rate reflects rampant inequities and huge disparities still exist between rich and poor countries, and between the rich and poor in all countries. The rate of decline is less than half of what it needs to be to achieve MDG 5 by 2015.
Other organizations have voiced this concern. During the 61st session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, in October, regional representatives and governments discussed women’s health in a human rights context. In the same vein, the UN released a report in October that recognized the progress made regarding obstetric fistula in the developed world, but which outlines the debilitating reality the condition still poses for women in the developing world. Likewise, The Lancet applauded the increased support of maternal, newborn, and children health programs from the Official Development Assistance (ODA), but criticized resource allocation and prioritization.
At our global conference, experts identified critical barriers to success. By examining these roadblocks, and examining the existing solutions, we can then actively strategize to learn from what has worked and what hasn’t worked in order to reach MDG 5.
Did we forget a major maternal health event or milestone? What do you think were the highlights of the year? Leave your ideas and answers in the comments below.