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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Blanc’

More from the Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi.

See below for my recap of the third and final plenary of the conference.

Ann Blanc, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force, welcomed attendees of the Global Maternal Health Conference to the third and final day of the conference. She recalled the Safe Motherhood Conference held in 1987 in Nairobi–and said, “Experts at the Nairobi meeting did not expect to be here today. They would have thought that by now preventable maternal mortality would be a thing of the past.”

Lynn Freedman, Director of the Averting Maternal Death and Disability program at Columbia University and moderator of the final plenary, opened the session with a statement that she said few could argue with: Many of the pieces are in place to make preventable maternal mortality a thing of the past; technical knowledge, money, political will, and big improvements on the great challenges of implementation. What we need now is accountability. The title of plenary three was Maternal health accountability: successes, failures, and new approaches.

Insights from plenary three panelists:

Sigrun Mogedal, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway, discussed bi-lateral and mulit-lateral aid for maternal health. She noted the current momentum around maternal health but reminded conference participants that we have been here before–and asked, “Why should now be different?” She pointed out that consensus in New York is not the same as action on the ground. The missing piece needed for more action on the ground is accountability–and this is a matter of hard domestic policies. She said that bi-lateral and multi-lateral debates “take up too much space.” The global must serve and respond to the local, NOT the other way around.

Helena Hofbauer, Manager of Partnership Development at the International Budget Project, raised questions about aid effectiveness–and discussed national governments’ commitments to spending on maternal health. She described the work of the International Budget Project to use budget analysis to address persistent inequalities in maternal mortality. She said that the budget is a nation’s single most important overarching policy document. Helena asked, “What would happen if people actually asked the government how much and specifically on what they are spending to improve maternal health?” The International Budget Project did ask these questions on behalf of citizens, and the response was “deplorable”. In fact, the reply from Nigeria was that this sort of information is “sensitive and controversial” and from Tajikistan, “Please don’t bother the minister with these sorts of requests.” Helena declared, “This is, in practice, an accountability free zone.”

Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, talked about accountability within the context of a human rights and legal framework for improving maternal health. She described a paradigm shift from considering maternal health solely as a public health issue to now understanding it as a human rights issue. Nancy described the legal framework for how and why governments should be held accountable for maternal deaths–citing the right to life, health, equality and non-discrimination, privacy, spacing of children, to be free from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and to education, information and the benefits of scientific progress. She described the process of litigation at the national and international level to demand individual compensation and systemic change–noting that demanding this sort of accountability is the next critical step in improving global maternal health.

Aparajita Gogoi, Executive Director of CEDPA India and the India National Coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance, commented on accountability through grassroots advocacy. She said that working on the issue of accountability at the grassroots level occurs in three phases: gathering information, spreading awareness, and speaking out. She described a number of tools that can be employed to give local communities a voice including public hearings, check lists, verbal autopsies, and more. Aparajita talked about the importance of providing a safe setting for dialogue—a place where communities can voice concerns and demand action. She pointed out that crucial here, is that people with power are also present, take the concerns seriously, and are held accountable for taking action.

For more posts about the Global Maternal Health Conference, click here.

Visit the conference site for archived videos from the conference.

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The controversial research reporting unexpected gains in maternal health, published April 12 in the Lancet, has triggered rigorous debate about the measurement tools used to count maternal deaths globally and at a country level. The paper, Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5, was written by Chris Murray and his team of researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The study found a dramatic reduction in the number of women dying from pregnancy complications between 1980 and 2008–and these findings have triggered both celebration and skepticism within the global health community. Some global health leaders are cheering the global progress toward MDG5 indicated by the research. Some are expressing cautious optimism. Others are challenging the paper’s methodology, asking whether it really signals big gains in the struggle against global maternal mortality or just flawed means of estimating how many women are dying.

On June 5th, the Lancet published a reply from Chris Murray in which he addresses some of the concerns voiced by his fellow global health researchers regarding the methodology of the study.

“We appreciate the rich set of letters in response to our paper on maternal mortality. The authors of the letters raise many important points, but we focus our short response on four larger themes that have been raised.

The country graphs in the webappendix to our paper show all the available data points for each country and our best estimates based on these data and the modelling strategy. In the case of the Philippines, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, and Peru, the correspondents have noted that our data-points derived from the analysis of sibling histories in household surveys are different from published figures from the same surveys. The differences stem from two sources. First, we correct for problems of survivor bias in sibling histories, following the published methods of Gakidou and Kingand Obermeyer and colleagues...”

Read the full reply by Chris Murray on the Lancet Online. Be sure to take a look at some of the critiques of the study–linked on the right panel next to Murray’s reply.

For more on this topic, take a look at a recent post, New Maternal Mortality Estimates Published in the Lancet: What’s the Buzz?, on the Maternal Health Task Force’s new MedScape Blog, GlobalMama.


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Tuesday (6/8) marked day two of Women Deliver 2010. Day two was all about innovation and (high and low) technology to improve the health of women and infants worldwide–in fact, the conference organizers marketed Tuesday’s sessions as a stand-alone symposium called Technology as a Catalyst for Social Transformation.

Take a look at two examples of technologies that were discussed at the conference on Tuesday…

Microbicide Vaginal Rings (High Tech)

“The nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) today announced the initiation of the first trial among women in Africa testing a vaginal ring containing an antiretroviral drug (ARV) that could one day be used to prevent HIV transmission during sex. The clinical trial, known as IPM 015, tests the safety and acceptability of an innovative approach that adapts a successful technology from the reproductive health field to give women around the world a tool to protect themselves from HIV infection…”

Read the full press release here.

Clean Delivery Kits (Low Tech)

Clean Birth Kits–Potential to Deliver?, a publication supported by Save the Children/Saving Newborn Lives, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immpact (University of Aberdeen), and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth, was released at a session at Women Deliver yesterday. The session was chaired by Claudia Morrissey of Save the Children; moderated by Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet; and presenters included Wendy Graham of University of Aberdeen, and Haris Ahmed of PAIMAN. The goal of the session was to summarise the evidence base for clean delivery kits, discuss practical implementation experiences from the field, and to have a lively debate on the “risks” associated with promoting birth kits. The report will be available online soon.

Subscribe to the MHTF Blog for updates on this project/report–as well as updates on other MHTF projects and commentary on a variety of maternal health issues.

Check out a recent blog post, A Good Idea or an Expensive Diversion: Workshop on the Evidence Base for Clean Birth Kits, by Ann Blanc, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force, on a workshop leading up to the new report on delivery kits.

Click here for the webcast of a session at Women Deliver 2010 that explores “What’s on the Horizon” for new technologies in contraception.

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Last week, Dr. Blanc, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force, attended a workshop on the evidence base for clean birth kits in London–and this week, she blogs about it on the MHTF Blog.   

MHTF Blog

“…Many questions were raised by participants about whether clean birth kits represent a good investment for maternal and newborn health. There was some concern expressed about the potential for birth kits to be an ‘expensive diversion’ away from much needed work on strengthening health systems, although some could also imagine ways in which birth kits could be used as a strategy for improving the quality of care in health facilities…”

Read the full post, A Good Idea or an Expensive Diversion? Workshop on the Evidence Base for Clean Birth Kits.

The workshop was organized by Immpact/University of Aberdeen and Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children.

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Visit the MHTF blog for a message from Ann K. Blanc, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force, on International Women’s Day


Ann questions why the global health community doesn’t commit to the global eradication of preventable maternal deaths and renews the MHTF commitment to working with others in the maternal health field to improve global maternal health. 

Read her post.

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Attend the Maternal Health Change Summit in India and spend 9 months developing your maternal health idea with an Ashoka Fellow

The Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth and Ashoka have teamed up to launch “Healthy Mothers, Strong World: The Next Generation of Ideas for Maternal Health.” The two organizations are in search of “inspiring young changemakers with solutions that will transform the maternal health field”.

“Maternal health is gaining prominence on the global development agenda but needs a new generation of professionals to sustain the momentum and end the cycle of maternal death and disability. The Changemakers online platform will identify 16 young leaders from around the world, Young Champions of Maternal Health, to develop their innovative ideas during 9-month mentorships with seasoned Ashoka Fellows working in the field of maternal health. During this time, the Young Champions will have access to maternal health experts through the Maternal Health Task Force and resources to further develop their ideas and projects.  “The MHTF is eager to foster new ideas coming from the next generation of maternal health leaders,” said Dr. Ann K. Blanc, Director of the MHTF at EngenderHealth. All Young Champions will receive a monthly stipend and 100% financial support for travel, accommodation, insurance, and visa costs. The innovations and projects that emerge from the Young Champions Program will be publicized widely.”

The 9-month mentorship will kick off at the Maternal Health Change Summit in India in August 2010.

“In addition to selecting 16 Young Champions, the Changemakers competition will award 3 organizations $5,000 in-kind prizes to attend the global Maternal Health Change Summit to be held in India late in August 2010. At the Change Summit, the Young Champions and the Changemakers Prize Winners will discuss their ideas and projects, receive training, and get feedback and advice from maternal health experts.”

Click here for more info and the MHTF announcement about these opportunities.

And, click here for more details on the competition, information about how to apply or how to nominate someone.

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The past few days have been full of news and blogs about the need to integrate maternal health services with HIV/AIDS, infant and child health programs and other allied fields. This buzz comes in the wake of the UNAIDS report released last week that presented data showing that HIV/AIDS is having a significant impact on maternal mortality in many parts of the world.  

Click here to see the Population Reference Bureau’s, “Five Good Reasons to Integrate Family Planning/Reproductive Health and HIV Services.”

Check out this Boston Globe editorial, “A changing fight against AIDS,” that explains why HIV/AIDS prevention programs must coordinate with measures to reduce maternal mortality and children’s infectious diseases.

This piece on RH Reality Check, “Getting Health Priorities Right: Towards a Sustainable Global AIDS Response,” paints the picture of an HIV positive woman in Botswana who must travel 30 kilometers by foot for HIV/AIDS services—and another 50 kilometers to find a clinic with contraceptives.

In this article also from RH Reality Check, “Bridging An Inexplicable Divide: Integrating Reproductive Health Services and the Global HIV/AIDS Response,” Jeffrey Sturchio makes the case for integrating family planning and HIV/AIDS services and provides four specific recommendations for integrating the care and increasing access.

Finally, click here to see comments from Ann Blanc, Director of the Maternal Health Task Force, about the first in a series of maternal health policy discussions at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The topic of the discussion was Integrating HIV/AIDS and Maternal Health Services. Click here to see the archived webcast of the event.

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