Progress towards Millennium Development Goal Five – reduce maternal deaths by three-quarters worldwide – has been the slowest of any, according to the United Nations. Maternal deaths are declining, but not fast enough: every year 350,000 women often die due to preventable causes during childbirth. Greater political willpower is needed if the global maternal health agenda is to move forward.
This discussion will feature the Ministers of Health of Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Rwanda – countries where there has been tremendous progress in the face of challenge – on the drivers of successful maternal health programs and how such efforts can be accelerated and sustained throughout the developing world.
Declining fertility is a key to lowering maternal mortality, as is an increase in the number of births that occur in hospitals with trained attendants. But underlying these issues is the status of women, which is a cultural, not a medical issue. When women are thought of more as family property than as individuals in their own right, their well-being is not perceived to be as big an issue as it should be. But can we just sit back and expect culture to change? As several presenters point out, the key is education. The better educated an entire society is--men and women--the better protected will be everyone's health. I know, I know--college professors are expected to say something like that, but it is true.