6 September 2019
More than 300 000 women die each year because of pregnancy related complications. In addition there are more than 5 million stillbirths and neonatal deaths every year accounting for more than 50% of all deaths in children under 5 years. The vast majority of these deaths occur in low and middle- income countries and most of these could have been prevented. Behind these ‘numbers’ are real people, families, communities and many sad stories of ‘missed opportunities’. For every woman and child who dies many more suffer ill-health. Recent new estimates of the burden of physical, mental or social or ill-health related to pregnancy reveal that 3 out of 4 women have medical or obstetric health needs during pregnancy, 1 in 4 report psychological ill-health and 1 in 3 domestic violence.
Once you know about this – it is not possible to ignore and you are challenged into taking action to make a difference.
At the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine over the last 10 years I have been able to develop and successfully lead the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health. We are a multidisciplinary, multinational group of committed motivated enthusiastic clinicians, researchers and managers who want to make a difference. Our focus is on implementation research – what works where and how in real life settings.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb.
CMNH works through effective links with governments and international partners across sub- Saharan Africa and Asia. CMNH is a WHO Collaborating Centre and a member of the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).
UHC means that people are able to access and receive health services when they need these and that they do not suffer financial hardship doing so. This means that health services should be available in a functioning health system provided by capable supported healthcare providers and managers working in an enabling environment.
Non-availability of care is in fact a big problem – in many areas of the world there is in fact no care available, there is no 24/7 care and/or the care is of poor content and quality. On my notice board is a saying by an eminent and respected colleague obstetrician-gynaecologist – Professor Mahmoud Fathalla many years ago – but still very valid today;
‘ The question is not why do women not accept the service that we offer, but why do we not offer services that women will accept ‘
Service coverage for UHC is measured and monitored via an index using 16 indicators or measures – 5 of these are directly related to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. This will hopefully help bring attention to the urgent need to become much better at identifying and addressing the health needs of women and children all over the world.
THET’s conference is a joyful occasion to share lessons learnt, encourage each other, think out new research and implementation programmes and joining forces to advocate for change and take action.
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