By Senator Bill Frist, MD and Miranda Allfrey
(Huffington Post, Sept 2016)
Did you know that the number of women who die each year as a result of pregnancy is on the rise in the United States? A discussion needed in our country and across the globe is the health and wellbeing of women and children.
Women are the matriarchs of many societies, often the glue that keeps families together. The struggles surrounding the issues of maternal, newborn, and child health are real. If we can keep mothers and children healthy, we directly aid in combating extreme poverty and hunger, keep girls and children in schools, and promote gender equity.
From sub-Saharan African villages to our own backyard in the United States to Haiti and beyond, education is the powerful catalyst for change. The global need specifically for education and activism for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies is great and can shape the future of women and children worldwide.
For every maternal death from pregnancy complications, at least 20 other women suffer serious illness or debilitating injuries globally. The critical path to change maternal and child mortality and poor health is awareness. Access to timely prenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendance during delivery, contraceptives, and emergency assistance to deal with postpartum complications, can make a difference. With these tools, 80% of all maternal deaths are preventable.
Every year there are over 210 million pregnancies worldwide. It is estimated that 80 million of those women do not want to be pregnant, creating more potential at-risk pregnancies.
With awareness and discussion of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, we can save the lives of mothers and children and create stronger communities with flourishing families worldwide. Women can be empowered to make choices about timing of pregnancy, childbearing, education, work, along with personal and economic health.
Awareness will help girls stay in school and allow mothers the choice of having a career. Timing of pregnancies will also dramatically reduce infant and child mortality rates. Over 2.5 million children die in the first month of life from pneumonia, birth complications, diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition, and more than 5.9 children die before the age of five. When pregnancies are spaced at least two years apart, children are healthier and more than twice as likely to survive infancy.
In developing countries and the United States, women are asking for a future. Women are asking for help. They need a voice. They need education. They need access to health care. The hard discussion concerning women and children’s health is a humanitarian need.
Imagine a world where women and children from across the globe are empowered, educated and healthy.