In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division at the foundation; Wolfgang Munar, senior program officer in the Family Health Division; and Amie Newman, a communications officer and editor of the blog, highlight a recently published paper, “A model for scale up of family health innovations in low-income settings: a mixed methods study,” that proposes a framework to scale up successful maternal and newborn health interventions in order to “reach more communities and improve the health of many more people.” They write, “That framework, called AIDED (Assess/Innovate/Develop/Engage/Devolve), will help us get to the next level in terms of spreading the proven health care solutions to communities that desperately need them” (8/30).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“The top United Nations relief official said [.pdf] today that humanitarian efforts to alleviate the devastating food crisis affecting Mali have begun to yield results, but warned that much still remains to be done and the situation could worsen without continued donor support,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/30). Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos “on Thursday called for more resources in Mali to save children from severe malnutrition,” Agence France-Presse reports. The widespread food crisis in the Sahel region is compounded in Mali by a militant insurgency in the north of the country, according to the news agency. “The food crisis, which follows a drought in 2011, has affected 4.6 million people in Mali alone,” and “[a]lmost 150,000 children across Mali have been treated for acute malnutrition … this year,” the news agency writes (8/30).
“Agriculture and nutrition are deeply intertwined. Not only does increasing agricultural productivity have the potential to improve rural families’ nutrition, but healthier and better-nourished farmers are more productive, earn more income, and contribute to further economic growth,” Gary Darmstadt, Sam Dryden, and Emily Piwoz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation write in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors note they “recently developed a position paper that describes why and how the agriculture and nutrition strategies of the foundation intersect, highlighting ways that we will work together in the future to make complementary investments in order to improve the lives’ and health of families in developing countries.” They conclude, “Combating undernutrition requires contributions from many sectors, including both nutrition and agriculture” (8/9).
BBC News reports on malnutrition in India, “an enduring problem Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a ‘national shame.'” “[D]espite supposedly spending billions of rupees on poverty and food-relief programs — and during a period of sustained economic growth — the government has made only a dent in the problem,” the news service writes. “It is estimated that one in four of the world’s malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to BBC, which adds, “India has been arguing over what to do about hunger and the poverty that underpins it for years — while its farms produce ever more food.”
Noting more than one month has passed since the Child Survival Call to Action event in Washington, D.C., during which stakeholders came together in support of the UNICEF-led initiative “A Promise Renewed,” USAID Senior Adviser Nicole Schiegg introduces a new tumblr blog from the agency that will feature U.S. action on child survival in a post on USAID’s “Impact” blog. “We’ll be updating this feed with quotes from U.S. Government officials, new products like fact sheets, and photos from field visits and follow up events,” she writes, adding, “Our goal is to show the U.S. Government’s continued support and emphasis on children’s health and survival” (8/6).
“For the first time researchers have discovered a link between overweight and obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and infant mortality,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gate’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “In a study published in The Lancet this month, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine show a definitive correlation between maternal obesity and the prevalence of neonatal deaths (infants who die in the first 28 days of life) especially before two days of age.” She continues, “Now that there is growing maternal obesity in sub-Saharan Africa — albeit slow — this poses a stark contrast to the traditional indicators of neonatal deaths such as underweight mothers and lack of access to health services and trained health workers for pregnancy and delivery in developing countries” (8/24).
“In teaching nurses and midwives in the developing world to care for their patients, a core tenet is that respectful care is quality care,” Catherine Carr, senior maternal health advisor for the Jhpiego/MCHIP-Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “Around the globe, health-care workers are being trained in respectful, humanized care, because all patients, regardless of economic status or geographic location, deserve to be treated with reverence and consideration,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, there is still a huge gap between the maternal care a pregnant woman should receive and what she actually experiences.”
“The World Bank boasts that it has positioned itself as a ‘global leader’ in reproductive health, especially for youth and the poor,” but in 2011, it dedicated “just 0.2 percent of its $43 billion budget” to reproductive health projects, and much of that money was provided as loans, which can “leave poor countries indebted and threaten to divert domestic spending away from vital public health services,” Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator at Gender Action, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In addition, “[t]here is a striking mismatch between countries’ maternal mortality rates and the bank’s spending on reproductive health,” Arend states, citing the examples of Sierra Leone, where the lifetime average risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth is one in 35 and the World Bank provides $7.43 per person, versus Niger, Liberia, or Somalia, where women “face an average lifetime one in 17 risk of maternal death, yet these countries receive no reproductive health funding from the bank at all.”
“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.