Leaders Speak At Partnership for Maternal, Newborn And Child Health Conference

Education for women is the most important factor for positively influencing the health of women and children, Indian President Pratibha Patil said on Saturday at a meeting in New Delhi of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), IANS/Sify News reports. “Education is a powerful driver of health. The relationship between poverty, lack of education and limited access to health services, is well recognised,” Patil said at the start of the two-day conference (11/13).

The meeting, “hosted by the government of India, follows closely from the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN General Assembly in September,” according to a PMNCH press release. “PMNCH is an independent alliance of 350 partner organizations hosted by the World Health Organization in Geneva. It brings together six different constituency groups, from governments and civil society to health professional associations and academic institutions,” according to the release.

So far this year, “governments, foundations, businesses, multilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations and health care professional associations publicly pledged more than $40 billion to improve maternal and child health and save millions of lives,” the PMNCH press release states. The meeting in India is an effort “to bring all of the stakeholders together … to develop concrete strategies for action on financing, policies and service delivery,” according to the release (11/12). 

“Educated women tend to provide better guidance to their children and also promote education of girl children,” Patil continued, IANS/Sify News writes. She called for “an exchange of experiences and best practices between countries and stake holders” (11/13).

Patil also urged stakeholders to focus on achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets by the 2015 deadline, ANI/Oneindia News reports. “With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, there is an even greater need to give impetus to the endeavours to translate pledges into real, time-bound actions, that would substantially improve the survival and health of women and children,” said Patil (11/13).

According to Patil, a solid global economic recovery from the downturn will require a focus on poverty reduction and maternal health, PTI/DNA writes. “So far as India is concerned, our economy has shown resilience and is expected to grow by over 8% this year and then further accelerate,” she said. “The president said India recognised its burden of maternal, newborn and child mortality as one of the highest in the world. ‘The curative aspect of health care is very important, but along with it, a broad approach that looks at the entire range of health care from preventive to rehabilitation should be adopted, which can result in a higher dividend in terms of healthy individuals,’ she added,” the news service reports (11/13).

Also on Saturday at the meeting, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan applauded India’s efforts to eradicate polio, highlighting its 95 percent case reduction rate, IANS/Sify News reports. “What you have done is impressive, the polio vaccines have made significant change,” Chan said.

Chan also discussed the need to track and produce health improvement around the world. “Impact assessment and accountability are important. Nearly 85 countries don’t have any reliable data system,” she said. “She added that WHO is working on making a standard system for making a comprehensive system for data collection. ‘WHO will be identifying the core indicators for collecting data so that countries can routinely record standardised data,’ she said. Chan also highlighted the importance of private sector in making healthcare available to a wider section of the population,” the news service writes (11/13).

Study Finds More Than 60 Percent Of Child Deaths In India Are Preventable

About three-fifths or 62 percent of India’s 2.35 million child deaths in 2005 were attributable to five preventable causes of death, according to a study published in the journal Lancet on Saturday, Reuters reports. According to the study, led by the Register General of India, the five causes were identified as: “pneumonia, prematurity and low birthweight, diarrhoeal diseases, neonatal infections and birth asphyxia, and birth trauma,” the news service writes.

For the study, “field workers investigated causes for the deaths of 24,841 children through interviews with their families using a standard questionnaire. Two of 130 physicians then independently assigned a cause to each death,” Reuters writes. “Each of the major causes … can be prevented or treated with known, highly effective and widely practicable interventions such as improvements in prenatal care,” according to the researchers.

The study also “found the number of girls who died between one to 59 months was 36 percent higher than boys, and the difference was even more stark in certain places in India,” the news service notes. They attributed the discrepancy to cultural preference for boys, which results in more health care utilization for boys. “Fewer girls than boys are vaccinated in health facilities. However, outreach programs that visit households immunize a greater proportion of girls than do facility-based vaccination programs,” the researchers wrote. “To address this problem, they recommended that vaccines against pneumonia and childhood diarrhoea be added to immunization programs that deliver vaccines directly to peoples’ homes,” Reuters writes (11/12).

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