CSIS Ethiopia blog

In January, we traveled as part of a CSIS delegation to Ethiopia to see the work happening there in their Health Extension Workers program. Because of their leadership focus on advancing maternal health and the healthy timing and specing of pregnancy, contraception use has risen from 15% in 2005 to 29% in 2011. This is a tremendous gain, although there is still a long way to go before every women who wants access to contraception has it.

Watch this video to learn more about the program.

Having just concluded teaching my annual course at Vanderbilt, Global Health Policy and Politics, I am inspired to write a blog series based on a session I teach regarding the “psychology of global health.” In that session, I have students read a chapter from Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save. In this chapter, he outlines six reasons for “Why We Don’t Give More” in terms of philanthropy.

Technology and Poverty

Contraception in Ethopia

Apr 09 2014

Roman Tesfaye quote
Today, I am speaking at the Information and Communications Technology for Development and Faith (ICT4DF) Network Conference preceding the Infopoverty World Conference hosted at the United Nations this week. This conference focuses on the interface of technology and the alleviation of poverty in the developing world. In particular, my session hosts a number global health experts speaking to this issue from a faith-based perspective. Questions include: (1) How do ICT4DF tools maximize results in empowering global missions outreach and sustainable development; and (2) how can we transform traditional organizational paradigms from charity-based missions to maximum impact for developing communities.
While working in the Accident & Emergency Department in Georgetown, Guyana, I noticed one thing that was very different from what I’m used to back in Nashville: few to no ambulance arrivals. That is because there is essentially no EMS system in Guyana.

There are a few ambulances that are a part of the hospital system. These are used mainly for transport between outlying hospitals and GPHC, where I was working. They are also used to transport patients in our hospital to the CT scanner, located in another building, or to transport laboring mothers from the L&D ward to the main hospital, where the operating rooms are located. When used for transport from an outlying facility, they are staffed with a driver, sometimes a nurse, and an “attendant”, who might be able to assist the nurse. In addition, multiple family members will usually ride with the patient.
It took a while for me to realize how spoiled I am back at my home hospital, as compared to GPHC. Of course I immediately realized that that had different medications, fewer medications, and access to fewer labs and imaging tests, but I had expected and was prepared for most of that. But then one day it hit me: individually wrapped alcohol prep pads. There are at least a hundred of them in every patient room back home. In my haste to grab one, I probably drop about 3 on the floor and never pick them up. They don’t exist at GPHC. Here, there is a large container of cotton (like a giant cotton ball), over which someone pours alcohol and then you pull off a piece of cotton.

There are currently 222 million women worldwide who want access to modern contraception but don't have any way to get it. We know that the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy can improve the health of both mother and child, but did you realize there was a significant economic benefit to making contraception accessible to women living in extreme poverty? This short video by Population Action International summarizes the economic benefits beautifully.

My first week back in Guyana began with the third annual Crash Course in Emergency Medicine. A couple of years ago, Vanderbilt began an Emergency Medicine Residency Training program at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). With every new class of residents, we put on a “Crash Course,” an intensive four-day lecture series, so that all the new residents can get some intensive training on common emergencies, and all the older residents get an intensive review.

Anyone you talk to will tell you that they care about mothers and babies. But many people here in the United States don't realize that a mother dies somewhere in the world every two minutes. Every two minutes. The data is staggering.

Our hope is to make sure Christians don't let that overwhelming statistic leave them feeling overhwelmed to the point that they fail to act. Because the connection between maternal health and faith is so important.

We recently discovered this Q&A article with Courtney Fowler, a conference lay leader in the United Methodist Church, who connects the dots between maternal health, faith, and reproductive justice. It's a great resource for those who are starting to dip their toes in this issue of women's health and who passionately care about the lives of women all over the world, because you believe God cares about them too.

1,000 Days March 4 Nutrition
Last week, 1,000 Days was honored to join with Hope Through Healing Hands and Senator Bill Frist to engage community leaders in Nashville in the effort to improve maternal and child nutrition. With leaders from the faith, business, and academic communities around the table, we examined the issue of poor nutrition around the world and in Tennessee, where one in four children are food-insecure. The gathering of diverse voices—united by their passion to help mothers and children throughout the world—was a unique opportunity to bring greater attention to the issue of poor nutrition early in life and discuss ways that churches, businesses, and individuals can make an impact.
Our mission at the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide is to create advocates for maternal health, infant and children’s health, and for the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies for women in developing world. This includes mothers in Africa, India, Mongolia, Guatemala, and everywhere where moms and children are living in extreme poverty. Where 222 million women (mostly married) want access to contraception, but it’s simply not available where they live.

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