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Lancet Examines Canada’s G8 Strategy For Maternal, Child Health Initiatives

A Lancet World Report examines the details of the Canadian government’s strategy for the G8 maternal and child health initiative and reactions from global health leaders and politicians to the plan, including the announcement during a meeting of G8 leaders Halifax, Nova Scotia, that the initiative would not support abortion.

As described by Canadian International Development Minister Bev Oda, the initiative is set to target “the continuum of care for both mothers and children, including training and support for frontline health workers; better nutrition and provision of micronutrients; treatment and prevention of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, and sepsis; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; proper medication; family planning; immunisation; clean water and sanitation,” the Lancet writes.

The piece details positive reactions by health leaders on the Canadian government’s recognition of the role of nutrition in child and maternal health and growing interest in getting the “G8 to support a nutrition Framework for Action.”

The article includes comments by several health experts who address gaps in the plan and notes, “G8 ministers have yet to establish how any of these ambitious goals can be reached or paid for. At the outcome of the meeting in Halifax the G8 ministers asked WHO, UNICEF, U.N. Population Fund, World Food Programme, and the World Bank ‘to develop a common set of concrete goals and associated indicators, and to develop a common methodology to determine the most effective and affordable basket of integrated interventions based on and adaptable to country-specific needs and to build in-country capacity for these assessments'” (Webster, 5/8).

The Canadian Press/Toronto Star reports on a Lancet editorial reflecting on the Canadian government’s refusal to back abortion funding as part of its G8 strategy: “An editorial in The Lancet says it’s ‘hypocritical and unjust’ that Canada get in the way of abortions abroad when Canadian women can have them at home. … ‘This stance must change,’ the journal says” (Rennie, 5/6).

“Canada should be praised for making maternal and child health a priority issue for the G8. … However, a few key elements are missing from the framework. For example, there is no talk of emergency obstetric care. This omission is likely to be an oversight and should be rectified. Improving access to safe abortion services is also absent from the plan,” according to the editorial.

The editorial concludes: “Although the country’s decision only affects a small number of developing countries where abortion is legal, bans on the procedure, which are detrimental to public health, should be challenged by the G8, not tacitly supported. … Canada and the other G8 nations could show real leadership with a final maternal health plan that is based on sound scientific evidence and not prejudice” (5/8).

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