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Health Policy and Advocacy

Maternal and Infant Global Health: Broadening Our Vision

Sherri Brown, MSN/Education RN RNC-NIC

"You have to take ownership and leadership of tomorrow. For that to be possible, you have to strengthen your capacity and widen your vision as a global citizen.” —United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Much of the burden of maternal and child mortality and ill health is concentrated among the poorest populations in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, 10 countries comprising almost two-thirds of the global burden of maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths. In many of these countries, the highest mortality is observed among the marginalized poor who generally reside in remote rural areas with limited access to healthcare services (World Health Organization [WHO], 2016).

According to WHO, nearly half of all mothers and newborns in developing countries do not receive skilled care during and immediately after birth. Because more than one-third of all child deaths occur within the first month of life, providing skilled care to mothers during pregnancy, as well as during and after birth, greatly contributes to child survival (Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, 2011).

In 2000, a group of major world leaders gathered in New York to sign the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a document that addressed some of the greatest moral dilemmas of the times—inequities in global health, poverty, and development. From that document, a set of targets, or Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were developed with the goal of meeting them by year-end 2015.

Two of those key goals were: MDG 4, targeting a two-thirds reduction in mortality of children under 5 years; and MDG 5, targeting a three-quarter reduction in maternal mortality (both used 1990 baseline figures). As December 2015 came to a close, both maternal and child mortality had decreased (child < 5 by 48% and maternal by 43%), however, there is still much room for improvement.

As leaders move on to the Sustainable Development Goals of 2016–2030, which emphasize sustainability and capacity building, it is imperative that nurses, midwives, and maternal-child healthcare workers across the globe step up to the table to be the voice for the countless women and children in the poorest regions whose voices are not heard and who bear the highest burden of mortality.

For more information on how to be an advocate for women and children globally, visit www.who.int/pmnch/activities/advocacy/global/en/.

References
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. (2011). Newborn death and illness. Available at www.who.int/pmnch/media/press_materials/fs/fs_newborndealth_illness/en/. Accessed February 20, 2016.

World Health Organization. (2016). Social determinants of health. Available at www.who.int/social_determinants/en. Accessed January 22, 2016.

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