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).

February 6: International No Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation

February 6 has been designated by the UN as “International Day against Female Genital Mutilation,” a day to raise awareness about the dangers and health consequences of this traditional practice in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.1 Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural, religious, or other non-therapeutic reasons.2 It has no health benefits and frequently causes both immediate and long-term problems for women and girls: in addition to severe bleeding, infection, and problems urinating, it can cause infertility and complications with childbirth.1,3 An estimated 130 million women alive today are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

Image courtesy of afrol News

Prevalence of FGM in AfricaFGM is entrenched in the cultural and religious beliefs in many communities.4 In many parts of West Africa, this cutting is presented as a religious obligation to Muslim women.5 It is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women: it is nearly always performed on minors,2 and it is sometimes used to facilitate sexual relations with child brides.5 Additionally, FGM is just one component of cultures in which women have no voice in decisions that affect their everyday health and well-being. For example, Amnesty International recently called attention to the high rate of maternal deaths in Burkina Faso, which it ascribes to gender discrimination: many women are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services due to discriminatory attitudes and illegal demands for payments by corrupt medical staff.  Burkinabe women have little to no say in when they can seek medical care or the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, and they are still being subjected to early marriages and FGM.6

There has been recent progress by governments, human rights groups, and NGOs in persuading communities to abandon the practice.  In Mauritania, 34 imams and Muslim scholars recently signed a fatwa, or religious ruling, against the practice.7,8 Authorities in Niger recently took steps to enforce a ban enacted in 2003 by administering fines and jail sentences to 45 mothers who allowed their daughters to be cut.7  Tostan, an NGO that works primarily in Sénégal, has worked with thousands of villages that have made the decision to abandon FGM: the group educates villagers and then allows them to make their own conclusions.  Because the practice is often tied to marriage opportunities, intramarrying groups must make a collective decision to abandon the practice in order for efforts to be effective.4 Since 1997, 4,580 communities working with Tostan have declared their decision to end the practice.

The UN and other international health and human rights groups have campaigned aggressively to end FGM, and more countries are passing laws against the practice.  Recent indications that communities in West Africa are moving away from it are encouraging.  However, two million girls are still at risk every year.2 As the international community observes this day of awareness, we should be attuned to the need for culturally sensitive approaches to end FGM in order to protect the rights of women and girls.

World Pneumonia Day

November 2, 2009 is the first annual World Pneumonia Day, recognizing the world’s leading child killer as a global public health issue. A network of nearly 100 IGO, NGO, research and academic institutions, foundations, and community-based organizations have joined forces to raise awareness and urge governments and policymakers to combat this preventable illness. Each year, over 2 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia and pneumonia-related complications.

Although this is a great venture, it is surprising to see that this is the first campaign of its kind. Being the leading killer of children, it is outrageous to know this disease is not only treatable, but preventable. It leads me to wonder: “Why hasn’t more been done?” Mary Beth Powers, Campaign Chief of Save the Children said in an interview about pneumonia, “The sad thing is this is a disease that is largely preventable, and highly treatable.” This is not a disease that requires decades of scientific research to find a cure. Watch the movie.

According to leading public health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, many deaths can be prevented through early vaccination, proper medication (antibiotics) and nutrition, and vitamin supplements, such as zinc that is not typically found in a lower-income diet. Read more about the cause, prevention and treatment of pneumonia at the World Pneumonia Day website.

I would encourage everyone to spread the word about World Pneumonia Day, so greater awareness is made. The coalition firmly believes these deaths can be avoided, and encourages others to join the fight against pneumonia by:

1. Signing the pledge to fight pneumonia
2. Joining the coalition
3. Donating to the cause
4. Educating others about pneumonia prevention, diagnosis and treatment
5. Participating in a World Pneumonia Day event

‘Sure Start’ in India Mobilises Communities for Maternal and Neonatal Health

Expecting mothers and their mother-in-laws learn about how to safely sever the umbilical cord of a newborn at a Sure Start facilitated Mothers’ Group Meeting in Sabji Village, Rae Bareilly District, Uttar Pradesh, India
Expecting mothers and their mother-in-laws learn about how to safely sever the umbilical cord of a newborn at a Sure Start facilitated Mothers’ Group Meeting in Sabji Village, Rae Bareilly District, Uttar Pradesh, India

By Tania Lal

A report by UNICEF India in January 2009 found that about a million neonatal deaths occur in the country each year. Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) has the largest population of any state in India and continuing problems with neonatal mortality. In an effort to tackle this problem PATH India with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has initiated Sure Start, a five year project that works with a population of roughly 25 million. The program is described on our website at http://www.path.org/projects/sure-start.php.

A major contributor to these death rates is the lack of literacy and awareness that exists in the rural areas of the country. For example, the benefits of immediate and exclusive breastfeeding are not well understood. For this purpose Sure Start in U.P. works with  community health workers and facilitates the functioning of village health and sanitation committees. Continue reading “‘Sure Start’ in India Mobilises Communities for Maternal and Neonatal Health”