Category Archives: Maternal and Child Health

The Year of the Girl

The United Nations declared October 11th the International Day of the Girl Child.  Everywhere I looked for this post’s inspiration, I saw story after story of the daily violence perpetrated against girls worldwide. I had to ask myself, why just a day?  Aren’t girls – roughly half of the world’s population – deserving of much more consideration? I say that we declare 2017 the YEAR of the Girl and devote our efforts to address the following issues.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is a global concern. Some 200 million girls and women in 30 countries have undergone FGM, usually between infancy and 15 years of age. In many countries, FGM is a deeply entrenched cultural practice that has seen little decrease in the decades since foreign aid workers have been campaigning for is abolition. The risks might be high – infection, infertility, and complications of childbirth – but the perceived social benefits outweigh the physical costs. Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor working as part of a five-year research project by the Population Council, has witnessed this conflict firsthand among the Rendille people of Northern Kenya:

One of the things that is important to understand about it is that people see the costs and benefits. It is certainly a cost, but the benefits are immediate. For a Rendille woman, are you going to be able to give legitimate birth? Or elsewhere, are you going to be a proper Muslim? Are you going to have your sexual desire attenuated and be a virgin until marriage? These are huge considerations, and so when you tip the balance and think about that, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Despite cultural ties, FGM is decreasing in some African countries as evidenced by rates from the prior generation.  However, with prevalence as high as 81% (Egypt), 79% (Sierra Leone), and 62% (Ethiopia), there is still much work to be done.

prevalence

For example, with prevalence at 60-70%, FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan is a “hidden” epidemic.  Prevalence of this practice elsewhere in Iraq is 8%.  Outlawed in 2011 by the Kurdistan Regional Government under the Family Violence Law, FGM has continued largely unabated due to poor implementation and push-back from religious leaders.  You can read the Human Rights Watch harrowing report about FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan here.

Rape and Child Marriage

Last Friday, the BBC reported on a bill under consideration by the Turkish Parliament that would clear a man of statutory rape if he married his victim.  This bill is evidence of increasing violence against Turkish women.  Between 2003 and 2010, the murder rate of women increased by 1,400%.  Of course, the bill isn’t couched in terms of legalizing rape, but as a loophole for those offenders who know not the errors of their ways:

The aim, says the government, is not to excuse rape but to rehabilitate those who may not have realised their sexual relations were unlawful – or to prevent girls who have sex under the age of 18 from feeling ostracised by their community.

If passed, the bill would release 3,000 men from prison as well as legitimize child rape and marriage. Per Girls Not Brides, Turkey has one of the highest child marriage rates in Europe with 15% of girls married before the age of 18. Globally 34% of women are married before the age of 18 and every day 39,000 girls join their ranks. According to a study recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, child marriage comes with health and social consequences. Along with unintended pregnancies, infant and maternal mortality, and HIV, girls who are married suffer from social isolation, power imbalance, and experience higher lifetime rates of physical and sexual intimate partner violence.

Coming-of-age “Cleansing” Rituals

Practiced in parts of Africa, girls as young as 12 are forced to have sex as part of a sexual cleansing ritual.  The men, known as “hyenas,” are paid by parents to usher girls through the transition between girlhood and womanhood.  Girls are coerced into this practice through familial and societal pressure.  It is believed that great tragedy will befall the family and community should she not comply.  The use of a condom is prohibited.

A BBC radio broadcast found that communities believe the spread of HIV to be a minimal risk since they can pick men they know are not infected. One Malawian hyena, Eric Aniva, has been charged with exposing hundreds of girls and women to HIV. Aniva knew of his HIV status but did not disclose to his customers.

Forty percent of the global burden of HIV infections are in Southern Africa. Thirty percent of new infections in this area are in girls and women aged 15-24. Young women contract HIV at rates four times greater than male peers and 5-7 years earlier, linked to sexual debut or sexual cleansing rituals.

Let’s face it: Girls around the globe are being short-changed. Though progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. The Sustainable Development Goals have promised to “end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” by 2030. Others attest that it will take at least another century for women to reach wage equity in the United States.  However it happens, rest assured it will take more than a day.

Female sterilization not an answer to global contraception

The last week of September marks two days dedicated to improving reproductive health: World Contraception Day  (September 26) and Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortions  (September 28).  Both days are committed to improving the reproductive health and choices of women worldwide. With the vision of making every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy, World Contraception Day aims to help the estimated 225 million women in developing countries who have an unmet need for contraception.

Reports such as the UN’s 2015 Trends in Contraceptive Use Worldwide include somewhat promising data, such as 64% of married or in-union women use a modern contraceptive method. This figure is lower in developing countries, including 17 countries in Africa where modern contraceptive use is below 20%.

Sterilization is the most widely used form of birth control, accounting for a third of modern contraceptive use. Sterilization is heavily weighted toward female sterilization, 18.9% versus 2.4% male sterilization globally.  In certain countries, the prevalence of female sterilization as modern contraception is much higher.  Female sterilization of sexually active women aged 15 to 49 is most prevalent in Latin America.  The Dominican Republic leads the pack at 47%  followed closely by Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico.  China (29%) and India (36%) are also front runners.

unmetneedandunintendedpregnancy

Sterilization is a popular choice in the developed countries of Europe and North America, though male sterilization tends to be more prevalent than in the developing world. When practiced safely, sterilization offers many benefits because it is a one-time procedure with no follow-up or maintenance.  While sterilization might be the best choice for some individuals or couples, unsafe, involuntary, or otherwise coercive female sterilizations are altogether too common and an affront to human rights.

China’s “one child” policy  – perhaps one of the more infamous anecdotes in mandated family planning – has relied on sterilization to meet its goals.  In the heyday of the 1980s, neighbors became informants on so-called “out-of-plan” pregnancies.  Offending families were fined and possessions stolen, and local bureaucrats oversaw countless forced abortions and sterilization. 1983 alone saw over 20 million sterilizations. China’s Communist Party has recently relaxed its one-child policy  to allow each couple two children, but many in China, including activist Chen Guangcheng don’t see the difference as stated in this tweet:

This is nothing to be happy about. First the #CCP would kill any baby after one. Now they will kill any baby after two. #ChinaOneChildPolicy

Lesser known is an Uzbekistan policy that assigns gynecologists a sterilization quota of up to 4 per month.  In a report by the BBC, rural women who have had two or more children are the main target of this campaign.  It is estimated in 2011 alone that 70,000 Uzbek women were sterilized, some voluntarily and some involuntarily.  Unlike China’s policy to slow population growth, Uzbekistan’s goal is to manipulate its once abysmal infant mortality ratings.  Fewer infants means fewer infant deaths, and Uzbekistan’s infant mortality rate in 2012 is half of what it was in 1990.

India has received much attention for its sterilization camps.  The name alone conjures images of the Nazi eugenics movement.  In 1951, with Malthusian ideology in mind, an Indian demographer set out across rural India to complete a census.  His prediction – that India’s population would reach 520 million people by 1981 – was both incorrect (India’s population in 1981 was 683 million ) and the catalyst for a mass sterilization program.  This led to compulsory sterilization in 1976  that lasted for 21 months and effectively sterilized 12 million men and women, often rural, poor, and of low caste.  Employment, wages, and even running water were withheld from individuals and whole villages until 100% compliance was met.

Today, while technically voluntary, sterilization in India is incentivized. In the past, men were promised transistor radios in exchange for a vasectomy.   Male sterilization is now considered culturally unacceptable.  Women are the target of sterilization campaigns and can receive up to $23 US – a month’s income – to submit to a tubal ligation.

sterilization

Women undergo sterilization operations at the Cheria Bariarpur Primary Health Centre in the Begusarai District of Bihar. A few dozen women were sterilized in one day. Although India officially abandoned sterilization targets years ago, unofficial targets remain in place, according to people working on the ground. One Primary Health Centre doctor says the targets in themselves are not necessarily the problem, arguing instead that itÕs the lack of a good healthcare infrastructure in some places that makes it difficult to safely meet those targets. SARAH WEISER

Indian women arrive at sterilization camps by the jeep load.  In makeshift operating theaters –  with no electricity and running water – neither gloves nor equipment are changed between the five-minute operations.  Expired antibiotics given to some women are found laced with rat poison.  In 2014, Dr. R.J. Gupta, self-described as performing 300 tubal ligation in one day, was arrested after women he and an assistant sterilized either died or were hospitalized.  The current government regulation is that no one doctor should perform more than 30 sterilizations a day.  On the day in question, Gupta’s six-hour spree resulted in 83 tubal ligation.  It is believed that Gupta was trying to reach a government-set target of 220,000 sterilizations in one year.

On September 14th of this year, India’s Supreme Court ordered a close of all sterilization camps within three years.  That is an unsettling time span in which over a half a million more women could be sterilized and many more deaths and hospitalizations could occur.  Even after the dissolution of government-sanctioned sterilizations camps, women will continue to be subject to this dangerous procedure.

What are low cost, accessible, and humane forms of birth control for the developing world?  A promising alternative might be Sayana® Press, a lower-dose presentation of the three-month injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera® in the Uniject™ injection system.

sayana_press

A village health worker counsels a client in family planning and administers Sayana Press. Phiona Nakabuye (left), village health worker trained by PATH’s Sayana Press pilot introduction program, with Carol Nabisere (right), age 18, who chose to receive Sayana Press after being counseled in the various forms of contraception, Kibyayi village, Mubende district.

Original trials of the injectable contraceptive were successful in Florida, New York, and Scotland, and the same seems to be holding true in Uganda.  Most women were able to self-administer the drug after just one training session and again at the next dose, three months later.  Designed for single use, Sayana® Press reduces reliance on needles and needle sharing  which is essential in the fight against HIV/AIDS and women only need to travel to a clinic once to get a year’s supply.

There is so much to consider when it comes to global family planning.  It would be remiss not to mention the impact that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has on sterilization rates in some regions of the world and you can read more here, here, and here.  Organizations such as USAID have been implicated  for funding so-called fertility reduction programs that include mass sterilization.  What can be done to ensure all women have access to contraception?

Guest Blog: The DevelopmentXChange Pitch Competition

Guest Blogger: Amanda Hirsch


Saving Lives at Birth, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), hosted DevelopmentXChange, the fifth annual pitch competition held by the partnership to call upon innovators from around to identify and scale up groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in poor, hard-to-reach communities.

Fifty-three finalists from the pool of innovators joined this year’s DevelopmentXChange in Washington, DC to participate in the final stage of the competition. They gathered to actively network their ideas with innovators, investors and partners, display their innovations in an open Marketplace, and compete for grants to make their innovations reality.

Amongst the 53 finalists, the first to present was a representative of the Pumani by 3rd Stone Design. Half of premature babies struggle to breath upon birth. This product expands upon the existing Bubble Continuous Positive Airway (bCPAP) technologies that are commonly used in the developed world to treat neonates with compromised respiratory systems by maintaining positive airway pressure during breathing, preventing airway collapse and improving oxygenation.

The Pumani, named after the Malawian term for “breathe restfully,” is as cheaper, easily-transportable version of the original bCPAP. The Pumani is currently being used by 700 clinical staff in 40 hospitals in Malawi and surrounding African countires. 2,000 patients have been treated with 170 Pumani devices to date and have seen survival rates of 64.6% with usage compared to rates of 23.5% from the use of oxygen alone. Creators of the Pumani hope to receive sufficient funds to manufacture hundreds more devices and to develop a sales and distribution team.

Next, innovators of Emory University pitched their Skin Immunization Microneedle Patch. Each year 1.5 million babies and children die of vaccine-preventable diseases. Low socioeconomic status, little-to-no access to healthcare facilities to receive vaccinations, and difficulty transporting and storing vaccines to remote and rural populations have severely impacted vaccination rates in hard-to-reach communities.

The vaccination patch, a small square covered in microneedles that will vaccinate a subject against one or multiple diseases within minutes is proposed to be the solution to this problem. The Skin Immunization Microneedle patch can be stored in unfavorable elements, transported easily, requires minimal storage space, and eliminates the burden of biohazard sharps. So far, the patch has successfully provoked immune responses to H1N1 and tetanus. Innovators of the Emory University team wish for funding to begin conducting human studies for the patch.

Third, innovators from the University of Toronto sought to address iron deficiency in pregnant women, particularly in Southeast Asia. Iron deficiency causes 150,000 maternal deaths each year. To address this problem, the Toronto teamed proposed food fortification- to fortify tea with iron. Tea was chosen to be fortified because it is the sole product that is universally purchased across Southeast Asia. People from all walks of life- rich, poor, urban, rural, must go to purchase tea.

Mimicking the iron fortification of salt which has cured one million people of anemia, it was proposed that iron be microencapsulated into tea that can be processed in the body. Innovators of the iron-fortified tea seek funds to work on managing the taste, distribution, and exploration of their product.

The remaining of the 53 innovators also presented at the DevelopmentXChange pitch competition. To learn more about the innovators, products, competition, and organization, visit http://www.savinglivesatbirth.net.


twitter photoAmanda Hirsch is a summer Global Health intern for APHA. She is starting her final undergraduate year at the GWU Milken Institute School of Public Health. Her passion for global health began in rural Honduras, and she is particularly interested in disparities in healthcare systems that affect the Latino community. She intends to pursue an MPH degree with a dual concentration in Community-Oriented Primary Care and Global Health. You can follow her on Twitter at @amandahirsch12.

APHA IH-MCH Working Group Conference Call: Wednesday, March 11 (12-1 p.m.)

All section members are invited to attend the next Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Working Group conference call this Wednesday, March 11 from 12-1 p.m. (EST)

GUEST SPEAKER ON THE TOPIC: Global Strategy for Women´s and Children´s and Adolescent Health for the Post-2015 Agenda

Our guest speaker will be:
DR. OSCAR CORDON
Health Practice| Director, Chemonics International
Governing Councilor – APHA International Health Section

Call-in information:

USA/Canada (toll free): 1-888-757-2790
For those calling from outside of the US: +1-719-359-9722
Guest Passcode: 424573

This conference call is being organized by the IH-MCH Working Group of the International Health Section of APHA, but all section members are invited to attend!

For more information and supplemental materials, please contact Laura Altobelli, MCH Working Group Co-chair, at laura [at] future [dot] edu.

Notes on IH Section Conference Call: Current Developments in MCNH (June 27, 2011)

The IH Section held its third topic-focused conference call on Current Developments in MCNH on Monday, June 27, 2011 from 1:00 to 2:00 EST. We had several members of the IH section offer their commentary and expertise on current issues concerning maternal and child health.

Speakers
Laura Altobelli (Future Generations)
Elvira Beracochea (Midego)
Carol Dabbs (U.S. Department of State)
Miriam Labbock (Carolina Global Breastfeeding Insititute)
Mary Anne Mercer (University of Washington)

Laura Altobelli: Brief presentation of the APHA policy resolution proposal submitted by the IH section entitled, “Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Morbidity and Mortality.”
Laura discussed the new APHA policy proposal on MCH. There was nothing previously on the APHA policy regarding global action on this issue per se – one previously existing resolution focuses on reducing maternal and child mortality in the US, and one focuses on breastfeeding and has both domestic and global aspects. This, then, is the first policy proposal on global MNCH. Justification for the policy proposal is lack of progress on the MDGs and lack of policy commitment to protect vulnerable populations. APHA will be joining important other organizations that are putting out strategies, including the Partnership for MNCH (WHO), and the UN, and attended global meetings in 2010 in observation of the Year of Maternal Health (some of these mentioned below). There is also an effort to increase attention to this in the Global Fund and GHI. Six other sections/forums are co-sponsoring the resolution.

Elvira Beracochea: Update on the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
A factsheet has been sent out (available upon request – please contact jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com). These MDGs and their targets have served us well to measure our progress so far. There have been improvements, though progress has been uneven. MDGs 4 and 5 focus on reducing mortality but not necessarily on improving health, development and well-being, and we need to address this as well. We know where women and children die and how. We also have the knowledge to prevent these deaths. We need to coordinate work at global scale and have a concerted strategy to ensure the rights of all women and children are met. We need to take global health goals to a new level of effectiveness using efficient strategies and a human-rights-based approach. A rights-based approach does not focus on only survival, but also on development. We need new targets and indicators that measure not only deaths but also number of children whose right are fulfilled; the children that are breastfed, fully immunized, drink clean water, are protected from malaria, and that that attend school. We need targets and indicators that measure not only the number of women that died or delivered with assistance of a skilled attendant, but that also measure the number of pregnancy complications effectively treated. We need new MDGs and targets.

Miriam Labbok: An update on reproductive health continuum (birth, breastfeeding and birth spacing promotion, protection, support) as an essential MNCH intervention approach.
It is vital that we pay attention to the reproductive health continuum within the life-cycle approach: birth, breastfeeding and birth spacing. Programming must include not only promotion, but also skill- and capacity-building so that support can be provided. In addition, policy change is needed to: support treating women with dignity, provide NFP knowledge (at least for the times that family planning supplies run out), and create the capacity to support health-supportive birth, breastfeeding and spacing practices. All such programming and policy creation should be carried out with recognition of the rights of both women and children to the best possible health support and with attention to appropriate technologies, as one size does not necessarily fit all. In addition, programs that address cultural change and intimate family and social decisions demand the building of trust that comes with reliability and long-term relationships. Programming should be designed for the long term, with a strong base and phased in activities, and with excellence and sustainability as the focus.

Mary Anne Mercer: Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health – what it does and how one can get involved.
The Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health is a WHO-based coalition of organizations that support increased funding commitments to MDGs 4 and 5. Any organization that supports MCH can be a member simply by filling out an application from the PMNCH web site at http://www.who.int/pmnch/. Be sure your organization is a member (it’s free!) by checking the member list. Also check out the ‘Knowledge Portal’ that aims to maintain updated programmatic information on current approaches to improving MCH. I am on the Board of Directors of the Partnership as an NGO representative, and we will be electing a new member of the Board this year that will represent an Africa-based NGO or the Africa office of an international NGO — please let me know if you have any suggestions for good candidates for that position.

Carol Dabbs: Trends in US government funding levels for global MNCH.
Funding has increased and is overseen by the State Department. Global Health targets are to be achieved with funding from FY 09-14, generally for implementation in FY 10-15. The Global Health Initiative includes principles supporting country-led plans and to coordination with other partnerships and donors, as well as between USG agencies and health programs. Eight countries have been selected as “plus” countries (places to conduct learning laboratories): Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Guatemala. Almost all of the Global Health Initiative funding is from USAID and State (there is also some DHHS funding, but that was not included in this discussion). There are two stages in the fiscal year: requesting funds from Congress and appropriation of funds by Congress. Unfortunately, delays have been a reality this year. However, we should look at trends and context of the rest of foreign assistance and of overall health fundig. The budget now includes nutrition as a separate item, and it’s included in the MNCH numbers here. There has been a trend of increased funding; funding for MNCH has increased about by 22% over two years (FY 2008 to FY 2010), but the full year continuing resolution for FY 2011 allocation to MNCH is still pending. We do not know what the appropriations for FY 2012 and FY 2013 will be.

Discussion: Is this in addition to Dept of State HIV funds? Yes, there are additional funds in USAID for HIV/AIDS, as well as funds for MCH and the rest of the health programs.

IH Section Conference Call: Current Developments in MCNH

Please join us for our next bi-monthly conference call!  The IH Section is hosting its topic-focused conference call for the month of June.  The call will be held on Monday, June 27 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST.  This call will be hosted by section members Miriam Labbock and Laura Altobelli, who will be discussing current developments in maternal, neonatal, and child health (MCNH).  The call will include:

  • Brief presentation of the APHA policy resolution proposal submitted by the IHS entitled, “Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Morbidity and Mortality”
  • Update on the Millenium Development Goals 4 and 5
  • An update on breastfeeding and child spacing as essential MNCH interventions
  • Update on the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth
  • Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health – what it does and how one can get involved
  • Trends in US government funding levels for global MNCH

Background information to review before the call includes:

  • APHA policy resolution proposal submitted by the IHS entitled, “Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Morbidity and Mortality*
  • Factsheet on the Millenium Development Goals 4 and 5*
  • Innovations June 2011 (newsletter on maternal health)*
  • Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health
  • Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth:
    1. The Lancet special series on Stillbirth came out in late April and all articles and comments are available for free from the series webpage. People may need to register on The Lancet website, but that is also free.*
    2. The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth plans to launch additional advocacy around preterm and stillbirth and the GAPPS conference in July 2012 will highlight research and discovery needs around both PT and SB.*

*If you would like copies of these documents or have questions about these two issues, please contact Andrew E. Barrer, Ph.D., at aebarrer@gmail.com or (202) 674-9294.

 TOPIC: Current Developments in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health (MCNH)
DATE AND TIME: Monday, June 27, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST
PHONE NUMBER: (712) 432-1001 (please note that this is not a toll-free number)
PASSCODE: 477461343#

You are welcome to submit comments and questions for the speakers; however, we ask that you submit them in advance so that the panel can present them to the speaker. This will allow us to keep things organized. Please e-mail questions for the speakers to jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com  by Friday, June 24 at 8 p.m. EST (June 3, 2011).

IH Section Conference Call: Current Developments in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health (MCNH)

UPDATED: Please note that the date has changed from June 13 to June 27.

Please join us for our next bi-monthly conference call!  The IH Section is hosting its topic-focused conference call for the month of June.  The call will be held on Monday, June 27 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST.  This call will be hosted by section members Miriam Labbock and Laura Altobelli, who will be discussing current developments in maternal, neonatal, and child health (MCNH).  The call will include:

  • Brief presentation of the APHA policy resolution proposal submitted by the IHS entitled, “Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Morbidity and Mortality”
  • Update on the Millenium Development Goals 4 and 5
  • An update on breastfeeding and child spacing as essential MNCH interventions
  • Update on the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth
  • Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health – what it does and how one can get involved
  • Trends in US government funding levels for global MNCH

You are welcome to submit comments and questions for the speakers; however, we ask that you submit them in advance so that the panel can present them to the speaker. This will allow us to keep things organized. Please e-mail questions for the speakers to jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com  by Friday, June 24 at 8 p.m. EST.

 TOPIC: Current Developments in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health (MCNH)
DATE AND TIME: Monday, June 27, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST
PHONE NUMBER: (712) 432-1001 (please note that this is not a toll-free number)
PASSCODE: 477461343#