According to Save the Children statistics nearly three million babies die within the first month of life and 287,000 women die annually from pregnancy and childbirth, with malnutrition and food security being a major cause. In the last year, improving maternal, newborn, and children's health was headlined as a top priority and centerpiece of the Canadian government's international development policy.
At the “Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit” held in Toronto in May 2014, the Prime Minister and Laureen Harper announced that $3.5 billion would be allocated for healthcare for mothers and children from 2015-2020, in an initiative that supports the global campaign to end preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and young children. Meeting the objectives of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and other NGOs, Canada is now taking a leading role in addressing maternal healthcare needs throughout the globe.
Canada's parental role has far-reaching effects and offers assistance for mothers in ten low-income countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The programs proposed include nutritional outreach using micronutrients to address under nutrition, malnutrition, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. In addition, Canada's Muskoka Initiative Partnership Program seeks to assist mothers in countries with high rates of maternal mortality.
The Minister of International Development and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development Canada are supporting the new programs. According to the Ministry, “Millions of lives have been saved through better nutrition, immunizations, health worker training, micronutrient supplements, and more. Communities in the developing world will be stronger and more prosperous because of Canada's leadership in saving the lives of mothers and children.” Global expansion includes the formation of the World Health Organization's UN partnership for maternal, newborn and child health designed to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. With a fundraising target of $30 billion, WHO bases its approach on high-impact and evidence-based interventions. Emphasizing a continuum of care ranging from adolescence and pre pregnancy, through pregnancy, birth, postpartum, postnatal, infancy, and childhood, the partnership strives to solve the maternal health crisis.
World indices monitoring sociological, economic, and environmental variables which can affect mothers include the State of the World’s Mothers Report, Global Health Observatory Trends in Maternal Mortality, Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, Global Food Security Index, Women’s Economic Index, Global Peace Index, and Gross National Happiness Index. In addition, the Save the Children Mothers’ Index ranked countries according to five indicators of a mother’s well-being including the risk of maternal mortality; children’s well-being; educational status (number of years of formal schooling); economic status (gross national income); and political status (degree of participation by women in the national government). International conflict and terrorism also negatively impact maternal, child, and newborn mortality rates.
Finland ranked first in the Save the Children’s Mothers’ Index as the best country for maternal and child well-being. At the low end of the scale, the Sub-Saharan African countries ranked as the worst places to be a mother. Canada ranked #18 in the 2014 index and surprisingly the United States ranked even lower (#31) due to high mortality statistics in the “under-five years old” mortality rates, maternal death, and political participation categories as compared to other highly developed countries. Although industrialized countries account for only 1% of newborns dying on their first day of life, of the industrialized countries the U.S has the highest first-day infant mortality rate with approximately 11,300 deaths every year. Reporters have commented that although maternal mortality rates are declining in every industrialized nation, in the United States maternal mortality is on the rise. According to the World Bank, U.S. maternal mortality can be correlated with low income, with the major number of incidences affecting Afro-American mothers. The cause is debatable and some practitioners have suggested that higher quality care, follow up home care, and increased use of midwives could make a major change in the situation.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
A growing number of health practitioners feel that maternal mortality and other maternal health issues are preventable. Natural health practitioners may offer alternatives to mainstream maternal healthcare, favoring all-natural prevention-oriented modalities free from harmful side-effects. This may include emphasis on the importance of certified organic non-GMO food, balanced diet, pure water, fresh air, pure environment, herbal remedies, natural supplements, massage and bodywork, lifestyle changes, yoga, meditation, daily exercise, balanced daily and seasonal routine, as well as alternative health education. Many of the traditional health practices and ancient scriptures of every culture recommend the very best natural preventative remedies for ideal maternal/newborn health.
Although implementing some of these programs may not be the first line of defense in developing countries where maternal/child mortality ranks very high due to poor hygiene, contaminated water, food security, malnutrition, war, and terrorism, certainly in the industrialized world these preventative natural modalities are worth looking into. As part of their overall global strategy, the governments of the developed world, including the U.S. and Canada, must be urged to fund implementation of prevention-oriented maternal healthcare as well as natural health training for health practitioners, technicians, and educators. Research funding to monitor and substantiate the benefits of natural maternal/child health interventions throughout the world may also be timely and assist in offering mothers and children around the world better health and a brighter future.
Simi Summer, PhD, is an organic advocate, independent researcher, educator, and free lance writer.
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