The recent United Nations General Assembly in New York spurred an abundance of thought-provoking conversation on what progress has been made towards the Millennium Development Goals and on post-2015 priorities. How will this next set of priorities be determined? What goals can be set that, if met, will have the greatest impact? Enhancing health enhances other outcomes and in particular, prioritizing maternal health can help disrupt cycles of poverty and disempowerment and combat HIV. Improving maternal health should be prioritized on the post-2015 agenda.
International actors have dedicated significant resources towards maternal health since it’s improvement was included as an MDG and progress has been made. However, the investment has not been nearly large enough. Ensuring maternal health is one of the most efficient and effective ways to ensure children’s and overall family health, as women are the conduits to children and families.
Prioritizing maternal health also has benefits that extend beyond families to entire communities. We have seen promise through the integration of HIV/AIDS services with maternal health services, particularly in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). This integration not only effectively provides education, prevention and care to women but also to their children. By promoting maternal health and PMTCT we can also mitigate future health care costs for the children born HIV-free.
In arguing for the inclusion of maternal health on the post-2015 agenda it must also be noted that resources are allocated not only at the international and national level, but also at the community and family level. Women and girls often find themselves on the losing end of this battle. Extending resources for maternal health can help mitigate the rationing of health care that leaves women and girls excluded or that can result in delayed access to health services.
The bottom line is that healthy mothers have healthier babies. Women with access to maternal health services can better care for themselves and their families, and better contribute to their communities. With this in mind, investment in maternal health seems like a no-brainer and hopefully the post-2015 goals will recognize this.
If you’re interested in learning more about how investments in maternal health can contribute to overall development, check out these blogs from just a few of the organizations working in the field: