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Opinion: Humanitarian Messaging; Maternal Health

Changing Humanitarian Messaging Could Save More People

In a New York Times opinion piece, columnist Nicholas Kristof says G8 leaders are “collectively so far behind in meeting humanitarian aid pledges,” and asks why it is easier “to try to assist a stranger before us” than “to donate to try to save strangers from malaria half a world away.” Kristof writes, “There’s growing evidence that jumping up and down about millions of lives at stake can even be counterproductive. A number of studies have found that we are much more willing to donate to one needy person than to several.” Humanitarians are “abjectly ineffective at selling their causes,” he writes, arguing that “toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups.” Although there are “no easy answers here,” Kristof writes, pointing out that if a toothpaste company had the same “miserable results in its messaging” as aid groups do, “it would go back to the drawing board.” He concludes, “That’s what bleeding hearts need to do as well” (7/8).

New Promise To Ensure Maternal Health Worldwide Needed

Although the decision for President Obama and the first lady “to visit Ghana on the heels of the G8 summit in Italy this week” demonstrates the administration’s commitment to “develop a healthy and prosperous Africa,” a new promise “must be made to provide highly cost-effective solutions to ensure that women are healthy before, during and after pregnancy,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) writes in an opinion piece in the Hill. According to Moore, it is “unacceptable” that “[m]ore than 500,000 women worldwide die from pregnancy each year, and millions more endure life-threatening complications.”

“The president has said, ‘We will not be successful in our efforts to end deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis unless we do more to improve health systems around the world, focus our efforts on child and maternal health, and ensure that best practices drive the funding of these programs,'” writes Moore, who adds that she is looking “forward to hearing from the president and first lady on this very issue following their trip to Ghana.” She writes, “Improving impoverished women’s chances of survival before, during and after pregnancy is an issue of rights and social justice. It is also a sound economic and social investment, given the importance of women to the well-being of their children, families and societies” (7/7).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.