Spoiled. That’s the only way to describe how I feel heading back to the states. I feel that I had the opportunity to practice medicine the way my 6-year-old-self imagined it while in Guyana and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experience.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter yesterday, making predictions, setting goals, and issuing challenges for the next 15 years. 

They believe that the next 15 years will be particularly transformational for world's poorest:"The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else's."

They highlight four areas of change in their letter. They are all worth reading, but the number one area of attention is health, specifically children's health. Child mortality has been falling dramatically, but newborn mortality hasn't enjoyed the steep decline other groups have, and maternal deaths are still far too common in some countries.

More than 287,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth leaving more than 1 million children motherless. Many of the youngest of those children won’t survive. Hope Through Healing Hands advocates for maternal, newborn, and child health with a special emphasis on  healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Bill and Melinda Gates are betting on major breakthroughs in the next 15 years. We agree that we should be able to accomplish astounding things by 2030. But for mothers and babies, the future is even closer. If 120 million women get access to family planning resources, 3 million fewer babies will die in their first year of life by 2020, and 200,000 fewer women and girls will die in childbirth.

It will be a radical change. Will you join us?

Hope Through Healing Hands is happy to announce that we are now eligible for Amazon Smile donations! Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases when you shop at smile.Amazon.com.

Hope Through Healing Hands is thrilled to be a sponsor of the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. This year we will be hosting a luncheon between sessions on Saturday, February 7. IF:Gathering attendees can register for the luncheon here.  Today, HTHH’s executive director, Jenny Dyer, is sharing her story at Unleash, the IF:Gathering blog.  

Years ago, I read Tony Campolo’s quote that “there are over 2,000 scriptures that call us to respond to the poor.” Bono, the founder of ONE and of the band U2, likes to re-state this often, believing that this, in fact, is the drive of the Scriptures: to help those in poverty. “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48). They make a compelling case.

With this knowledge and argument in hand, I left a potential career in academia to pursue one in advocacy. I had been trained to teach Greek, the New Testament, and psychology of religion. Instead, I was called to use that knowledge as a platform to live out “the drive of the Scriptures”: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I pursued the work of promoting awareness, education, and advocacy about the pandemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa and extreme poverty. My job was to engage church leaders across the United States in these complicated issues at the turn of the millennium. Today, I continue to do this work, engaging the church on behalf of some of the world’s poorest, for a spectrum of global health issues, including maternal, newborn, and child health.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Miheret Gebrehiwot. Miheret shared her story with us from her health post in the village of Gemed Kebele, in the Tigray province of Ethiopia. Lithe, poised, and with grace, she divulged in her native language of Amharic that she had been a child bride.

At 11 years old, Miheret had been expected to leave school and begin a life as a wife and mother. Over 50% of girls in northern Ethiopia are married by the age of 15. By 16, she was pregnant. And teen pregnancies can so often lead to health complications, education derailment, and ultimately, systemic poverty. Miheret shared that she was lucky. Her mother provided childcare for her children, and she was able to pursue a career as a health extension worker (HEW) and teach other young women how they can better care for themselves, their children, and their families. Because of young, committed women like Miheret, over 30% of women in Ethiopia now have access to information and services to make better decisions of when and how many children they wish to have.

I’m proud to say that Miheret’s story will be published in the upcoming book, The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (Zondervan March, 2015). Miheret’s story and the stories of other women in developing nations around the world lay the foundation for the book. 46 other authors join this chorus of voices from across American sectors of society: artists, authors, actors, pastors, academic leaders, and nonprofit leaders join together to share their passion for maternal and child health.

More than 220 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to the necessary education and resources that would enable them to do so. This is a critical issue. If women can “time” their first pregnancy until their early twenties, they are twice as likely to survive pregnancy and birth complications. And if they can “space” their pregnancies just three years apart, newborns are healthier and twice as likely to survive infancy. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives.

Maternal, newborn, and child health sit at the nexus of global health issues, influencing so many other challenges: extreme poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Studies show that maternal and child health may have more impact than any other global health issue today. The ripple effect improves the lives of families, communities, societies, and nations.

My job is to advocate for these women, children, and families. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother instructs him in his ruling (Proverbs 31: 8-9):

Speak out for those who cannot speak,? for the rights of all the destitute.?

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy

Advocacy is providing a voice for those who cannot speak. It is fighting for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and the oppressed.

There is so much we can do, beyond simply giving out of our pocketbook. We can offer our time, our attention, and our voice. We can be the change we want to see in the world. Just a few hundred voices of committed advocates across the U.S. can change the course of legislation to protect funding for U.S. programs that support the lives of women and children and families around the world. Women with stories just like Miheret. Please join us in lending your voice for maternal, newborn, and child health today.

Together,
Jenny Dyer

Originally at Unleash: https://ifgathering.com/unleash/hthh/

 

Since last week, we’ve been busy with meeting more people and being exposed to a project that we’ll be working on while we’re in the Dominican Republic. Last Wednesday we attended a forum on preventing youth violence and delinquency in West Santo Domingo.
On the 10th of October I attended a Mass that was held in honor of individuals suffering from mental illness as it was World Mental Health Day. This was my first Mass held in Spanish, and additionally, it was held in the first cathedral in the Americas. The experience was really incredible.
Before arriving in Santo Domingo, I had to attend a pre-departure orientation that revolved around my experience, personal and professional expectations, and various rules and advice for the experience. Once I arrived in Santo Domingo, my preceptor, Teresa, took Milca and I out for lunch before heading to the office for their weekly Monday meeting.

Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Hillary Clinton, Kim Paisley, Desmond Tutu, Jennifer Nettles among Participants in ‘Raising our Voices for Health and Hope’ 

FBC for HMACW logoNASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, Jan. 14, 2015 – Politicians, celebrities, pastors and global health advocates have joined forces to collaborate on a powerful new book designed to shine light on the needs of women and children in the developing world for tools to help their families stay healthy and hopeful for a better future.

Scheduled for release from Zondervan in March 2015, The Mother & Child Project: Raising our Voices for Health and Hope, also will include personal stories from women in places like Kenya, India, Uganda and Burundi. They describe how their lives and those of their children are impacted by the ability to plan the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, and by access to pre-natal and post-natal medical care.  

The contributors share their perspectives on global efforts to increase access to health services that save lives. Kay Warren writes as a mother who empathizes with the grief of those who have lost children to preventable, treatable causes: “I stand by these millions of women and children in their loss around the world to say that in the midst of mourning, we can choose to do something. We, as Americans, can choose to prevent these deaths with our personal and governmental support for maternal, newborn and child health and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies in ways that honor God. Our voices can and will make a difference.”

Melinda Gates writes, “[M]y teachers are the women – mothers and wives, daughters and sisters – I meet when I travel to developing countries. The stories they share are rooted in universal values and aspirations that connect all people— the ability to provide for our families and offer our children a better future. My favorite part of my job is talking with these women about what they need to unlock the potential to create that future.”

Attempting to take the politics out of these discussions, The Mother & Child Project includes both Democrats and Republicans on this issue, as well as people from diverse faith communities. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, notes, “The very words ‘family planning’ light up the limbic centers of American politics. From a distance, it seems like a culture war showdown. Close up, in places such as Bweremana [Democratic Republic of Congo], family planning is undeniably pro-life.”

Many factors contribute to the difficulties that women – including mothers – face in the developing world, but a recurring theme is the cultural mindset that sees women as commodities. “The marriage of adolescent girls, sometimes to much older men, sums up much of the harm, injustice and stolen potential that afflict so many girls around the world,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a piece co-written with Ela Bhatt of India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association.

To explain the broad-based support among Americans for needs that may seem worlds away, Kimberly Williams Paisley writes about her experiences working with mothers and children in Haiti: “What struck me more than anything was the love I saw between mothers and their children. It moved me because I recognized it. I feel that love for my children. I feel that love for my parents. It’s a simple idea but it was life changing to see it in this group of people who I thought had nothing to do with me and my life. It hit me hard. These people matter.”

Victoria Jennings, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health, describes how family planning – including using fertility awareness methods which are consistent with many women’s cultural norms and values – saves lives. “Studies have shown that allowing women and couples to delay their first birth and space subsequent pregnancies three to five years apart has dramatic effects on the health of the children and the mother, thereby improving the health and wellbeing of the whole family and community,” Jennings notes. “Experts estimate that the use of family planning to space births coupled with adequate pregnancy care could prevent nearly half of newborn deaths and two-thirds of maternal deaths in the developing world.”

The book closes with practical ways attendees can get involved to save lives and see families thrive in the developing world.  Many of the contributors are involved with non-profits or ministries working to address maternal, newborn, and child health issues around the world. The project also highlights the positive impact of U.S. government investments in these needs around the world. Readers are asked to share the stories in the book with those around them, to increase awareness about the issues, and then to become advocates for healthy mothers and children.

The Mother & Child Project was compiled by Hope Through Healing Hands’ Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, which seeks to galvanize faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. Particular emphases include the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy, not including abortion, that are harmonious with members’ unifying values and religious beliefs.

Information about members of who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition.  Endorsements for the coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/endorsements.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based 501(C) 3 nonprofit with a mission to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.  Senator Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chair of the organization, and Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.

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Note to editors: For more information, visit http://www.alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.

 

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