Friday, April 15, 2011

Maternal health around the world

GLOBAL HEALTH PROVIDERS: From left, front row, Marsh, Turlington, Vanessa Kerry, MD, MSc, of the MGH Center for Global Health, Goodman, Jessica Haberer, MD, of the MGH Infectious Disease Unit, and Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, founding director of Partners in Health. From left, back row, Sadath A. Sayeed, MD, JD, of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS, and Kristian Olson, MD, MPH, DTM&H, of the MGH Center for Global Health

She is best known as an American supermodel for brands such as Calvin Klein, Chanel and Maybelline Cosmetics. But Christy Turlington recently established a different reputation for herself: maternal health advocate for women around the world.

In 2003, Turlington experienced life-threatening complications while giving birth to her first child. Thanks to swift medical intervention by a team of health care providers, both she and her daughter narrowly missed becoming maternal mortality statistics. The experience made a significant impact on Turlington, who, during her pregnancy with her second child, traveled to El Salvador, where she saw women prepared to give birth with few birthing and medical resources. She understood that, had she given birth under the same circumstances, she and her baby may not have survived.

To help raise awareness about the importance of maternal health around the globe, Turlington produced "No Woman, No Cry," a film exploring the risks of giving birth without adequate care in three parts of the world: Tanzania, Bangladesh and Guatemala. On April 4, the MGH Center for Global Health and Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Global Health and Social Medicine co-hosted an event where Turlington presented her film and joined Annekathryn Goodman, MD, director of the MGH Gynecology Oncology Fellowship Program, and Sarah Marsh, CM, MPH, nurse midwife and former women's health coordinator for Partners in Health, at a panel discussion on the birth experience and well-being of mothers worldwide.

"Around the world, more than 500,000 women die each year during childbirth, and 90 percent of these deaths are preventable," said Turlington. "I knew that more could be done to elevate awareness around this issue and felt that, through the medium of film, I would be able to share women's stories from around the world to rally some activism."

Goodman, who has served on disaster relief deployments in Haiti, Indonesia and Iran, shared her view on global maternal health. "We need to understand what we can do to protect women. To do that requires an understanding of the social, cultural, medical and economic systems of the countries in which they live. The MGH Center for Global Health aims to help alleviate suffering, identify how to reduce the burden of disease and partner with health care providers of other countries to strengthen their public health sectors, specifically around important issues such as maternal health. We are grateful to Christy for helping to raise public awareness of this critical concern around the world."

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