Motherhood is a dangerous journey to take in most of the world. Nearly 300,000 women die each year from complications due to pregnancy, and 99 percent of those women are in the developing world. In Malawi, an estimated 510 out of 100,000 women will die giving birth. But Chief Kwataine, a former English teacher, has become well-known in the country for his work developing safe motherhood activities for nearly the last twenty years.

Watch this short, two-minute video to learn more about how women's (and children's) lives are being saved in Malawi. It's well worth your time.

“If you don’t practice family planning, you will have a child on your back, in your belly, on your shoulders and in a baby basket on your head.” Malawi nurse Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo describing the song and dance from a women’s health meeting in Madisi, Malawi 2013.

Behavior change communications take many forms throughout a lifetime . . . from the parent who scolds a child for doing something harmful, to government warning labels about health hazards. Somewhere in between are the messages from this video that rise up from women simply wanting to build healthy families by practicing family planning. With one in 39 women on the continent of Africa dying from pregnancy complications, it is easy to understand this group putting family planning at the top of their health priorities.
First off, an update on the two abandoned babies: they were not there when I went to work after my three days off. I was told that the girl (who was very cute and term) had been adopted, while the boy (who was a premi, but seemed very healthy—though of course small—to me) had died.

The Hill

by Senator Bill Frist, MD

The United States has shown courageous leadership over the last decade on global health. Earlier this year, Congress once again voted to protect the budget for those critical investments that we make to save lives, prevent the transmission of diseases and end preventable child deaths.  During my time in Congress, we fought hard for life-saving global health programs.  We were able to work together with both Democrat and Republican presidents to launch and implement historic health initiatives in priority areas such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, vaccines, and clean water.  These programs have saved millions of lives, and proven that health is the best currency for peace.

But even as funding for global health soared, foundational programs promoting maternal and child nutrition were largely overlooked.  Yet the need for greater leadership and investments in nutrition could not be more clear.  Across the world today, 162 million children—1 in 4 children under 5 years of age—are physically and developmentally stunted, and 80 percent of those live in just 14 countries.  The combination of physical limitations and reduced cognitive development directly linked to poor nutrition sentences these children to lives of unfulfilled potential, and it creates a severe drain on their communities and countries.  A 2013 report from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that the social and economic costs of malnutrition are unconscionably high, amounting to as much as $US3.5 trillion per year or $US500 per person globally.

Thanks to U.S. leadership on global health, child death rates have been cut in half over the last 20 years from 12 million to 6 million per year. With continued investments and unwavering leadership, child death rates could be cut in half again over the next decade. We must not save these children, only to abandon them in their most crucial developmental years.

Providing the right nutrients is fundamental to health, particularly during the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.  In the 2012 Copenhagen Consensus report, an expert panel of economists concluded that every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity. Yet despite the severe costs associated with malnutrition and the extraordinary returns on nutrition investments, the world spends less than 1 percent of development aid on life saving, basic nutrition solutions.

The tide is turning. In the 2014 budget, Congress provided a funding boost to the global nutrition account, signaling strong bipartisan support to combat malnutrition.  President Obama has committed to developing a global nutrition strategy, and USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, who has taken the lead on this initiative, just announced the completion of that strategy and the effort underway to develop a coordination plan across all agencies and programs that contribute to improved nutritional outcomes.   

Moreover, in June 2013 at the Nutrition for Growth event in London, the U.S. joined other world leaders and signed a global agreement that will boost global prosperity, prevent millions of infant deaths, and unlock greater human potential by working in partnership with developing countries to tackle malnutrition. This commitment is reflected in the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, which has been endorsed by over 90 stakeholders.

Governments from Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) countries and their development partners are also taking nutrition seriously. A total of 50 countries have joined the SUN movement to date, committing to driving forward their national nutrition plans at scale.

These plans and commitments are encouraging, but we must sustain and build upon the momentum that has been created over the last year on global nutrition. The president and Congress must remain resolute in their support for strong global health and nutrition funding in the FY15 budget and in prioritizing nutrition as a critical pillar in our foreign assistance investments.  They must work together to oversee the implementation of the new strategy, and to provide the increased resources that are necessary to reach the millions of children who continue to suffer needlessly from poor nutrition.

Investments in maternal and child nutrition build the foundation for the next generation to survive and thrive, and serve as a shining example of U.S. global leadership at its best.  

Frist, an acclaimed heart transplant surgeon, served Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007. He was Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007. He is chairman of Hope Through Healing Hands and Tennessee SCORE, a professor of surgery and author of six books. Learn more about his work at BillFrist.com.

NATO soldier

Hope Through Healing Hand's mission is to promote health worldwide as a currency for peace. This Memorial Day, we'd like to say a huge thank you to all of our armed service men and women who have given sacrificially to protect our freedom and to promote peace around the globe. You are heroes in our eyes, and we thank you for your service.

Image from Nato.org

Every Newborn Campaign

Articles and Videos You Don't Want to Miss

May 21 2014

This week has been the launch of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's #EveryNewborn campaign, and we've seen great coverage on social media and around the web on this important issue. Here are some of our top links for you to see, in case you missed them:

Melinda Gates's speech to the World Health Organization on May 20, 2014.

Who Has Been Caring for the Baby? by Dr. Gary Darmstadt, senior fellow for Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Saving 3 million Babies Is Easier Than You Think, from TIME's Jeffrey Kluger

 

May Newsletter

May 15 2014

Her.meneutics article: "Family Planning Through A Global Lens," by Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.

Christianity Today's Her.meneutics features articles that are at the interface of women's issues and cultural issues. We were proud to have the opportunity to publish an article this week discussing the importance of access to contraception and information about a variety of family planning methods, including fertility awareness, in the developing world. These are life-saving, life-changing tools for women and families.

In a season when contraception is debated and discussed in our own nation, it is important to consider how contraception is a pro-life cause worldwide.
Originally published in The Tennessean, May 3, 2014

When we married in December 2007, we knew we wanted to enjoy the adventure of marriage together for a while before having children. So, we concocted a whimsical battle cry: “Baby Free Until 2013!”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Melany Ethridge (972) 267-1111 [email protected] Or: Kate Etue (615) 481-8420 (m)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Joining with Senator Bill Frist, MD’s Hope Through Healing Hands and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, several U.S. celebrity and faith-based moms joined together to support to the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, a campaign to improve global maternal and child health, including through education about healthy spacing and timing of pregnancies.

Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a Nashville-based global health organization, recently partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create the coalition. Some of the moms and parents joining the effort include Amy Grant, Grammy-winning Christian music artist; Kimberly Williams Paisley, actress and writer; Jennifer Nettles, Grammy-winning Country music artist; Tracie and Scott Hamilton, Olympic gold-medal ice skater and philanthropist; Jena Lee and James Nardella, Leaders of Blood:Water Mission and Lwala Community Alliance; Cathy Taylor, DrPH, MSN, RN, Dean and Professor of The Gorden E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing at Belmont University; and Elizabeth Styffe, RN MN PHN and Global Director of HIV&AIDS and Orphan Care Initiatives at Saddleback Church.

“Those of us who have experienced healthy pregnancies here in the U.S. need to remember how uniquely fortunate we are,” Amy Grant said. “For the most part, we get to choose when and how we give birth, and we have all the health care we need before, during, and after delivery. In other parts of the world, the reality is tragically different. It is estimated that 1 in 39 pregnant women in Africa died in childbirth in 2013.”

“We believe children are a gift from the Lord, and every child deserves the opportunity to live a healthy life. If we can equip a mother with the knowledge of how better to time and space her children, she will be more likely to survive pregnancy and birth complications and the child will more likely survive the newborn stage,” says Elizabeth Styffe. “God wants us to live life in abundance, and we can take the first steps toward making this a reality for so many around the world.”

“Girls are often forced into marriage and pregnancy as young as age 12, and pregnancy and delivery are extremely hard on their bodies,” Jena Nardella explains.  “Too many die from complications, and those who survive often never recover 100 percent.  Yet many face continued pregnancies year after year, without being able to adequately care for their children. These adolescent girls are at much greater risk of HIV exposure which can affect their newborns, as well. As for the children, when pregnancies are not timed and spaced in a healthy way, many children don’t survive the newborn stage.”

“The cycle is devastating not only to families, but to entire countries and societies,” Senator Frist, M.D. noted, reflecting on his many trips overseas to provide medical care. “Women caught in this cycle often lose their opportunity to complete their education, which in turn limits their ability to do what they want most—to give their children an opportunity at a better life.”

“I believe this one issue – the healthy spacing and timing of pregnancies – could be a key to saving lives and economic empowerment in the developing world,” said HTHH Executive Director Jenny Dyer, Ph.D. “The good news is that we have the information and tools that can make this a reality. If a young woman in Africa can delay her first pregnancy until age 18 or later, she is dramatically more likely to stay in secondary school, and perhaps even attend college, providing stable financial support for her family to have a brighter future. Then, if she can space her pregnancies just three years apart, her children are twice as likely to survive infancy.”

Dyer continued. “There is great room for hope, and we are so delighted to have U.S. moms join us in this effort.  They can uniquely empathize with women around the world who struggle with their pregnancies, who face risk of complications during childbirth, and who suffer deeply at the illness or loss of a child. By raising their voices here at home, these leaders are bringing about transformation for women far away.”

While celebrating motherhood here in the U.S., faith communities around the country are giving their time and energy to ensure motherhood is a joy for women globally, rather than the high-risk event it is for far too many.

Information about those who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/faith-based-coalition. Endorsements for the coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/endorsements_1.

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Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) whose mission is 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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