Saving women during childbirth: Maternal health advocates push for new global goals

March 8, 2013 by Amy Roeder, Harvard University
Tanzanian Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal greets Harvard School of Public Health's Ana Langer. Langer collaborated on a maternal health manifesto that was published in The Lancet on Feb. 22. Credit: Harvard School of Public Health

Throughout history, more women have died in childbirth than men have died in battle, Mahmoud Fathalla, founder of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, told attendees at the recent Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, co-sponsored by Harvard School of Public Health's Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and Management and Development for Health (MDH), a Tanzanian nonprofit.

Fathalla and other speakers urged the more than 750 audience members, who represented 59 countries and work in more than 110 countries, to continue working for the of the 200 million women who become pregnant each year.

Conference attendees collaborated on a maternal health manifesto that was published in The Lancet on Feb. 22. Ana Langer, director of the MHTF and professor of the practice of public health at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Lancet Editor Richard Horton, and Guerino Chalamilla, executive director of MDH, co-authored the piece, which incorporated ideas raised during the conference and feedback from the participants. The authors hoped to keep maternal and women's health part of discussions during the High-level Dialogue on Health in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held March 5-6 in Gaborone, Botswana. Representatives from the World Health Organization and United Nations met with government officials and experts from around the world to develop suggestions for the development framework that will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Launched by the United Nations in 2000, the MDGs include two women's health goals to be achieved by 2015: A 75 percent reduction in (from 1990 levels) and universal access to reproductive and sexual health services. Maternal mortality has been reduced by nearly 50 percent since 1990, but only 24 percent of developing countries are currently on track to achieve this goal by 2015. There is still much more work to be done, according to the manifesto authors. With less than a thousand days before the MDGs run their course, they sought to define a framework for maternal and women's health goals in the next set of targets.

The manifesto, which calls for "a new and challenging goal for maternal mortality reduction" that embraces "political, economic, and social rights for women," reflects the collaborative spirit of the conference in a concrete way, Langer said. The writers state that as maternal mortality declines, policymakers need to focus on improving the quality of care while simultaneously ensuring that the care is delivered in a way that respects women's dignity.

"The manifesto will help make sure that women's health stays high on the list of priorities that the world needs to keep working on," Langer said. "It will hopefully also draw more attention to the agenda of the Women and Health Dean's Flagship Initiative here at HSPH. This is an area where we are well-positioned to move the agenda forward."

Explore further: Mothers in peril: Urgency, frustration in discussion of maternal mortality

More information: www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/feat … nal-health-tanzania/

Related Stories

Mothers in peril: Urgency, frustration in discussion of maternal mortality

October 3, 2012
Every 90 seconds, a mother dies in pregnancy or of childbirth complications—a tragic statistic, but one that may drive efforts to improve health care in developing countries, experts gathered at the Harvard School of Public ...

Maternal deaths cut by half: UN

May 16, 2012
Better care has cut the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth by nearly half in the past two decades, but there is still a death every two minutes, according to UN figures released Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.