Professor Caroline Homer, Burnet Institute Co-Program Director, Maternal and Child Health
It’s easy to become downcast when looking at rates of maternal mortality, says Professor Caroline Homer, Burnet Institute Co-Program Director, Maternal and Child Health.
But while the figures can make for depressing reading, opportunities abound for making significant progress in improving the health outcomes of new mothers.
In a Burnet Seminar presentation ‘Maternal and child health matters: Challenges, wins and opportunities’ Professor Homer stressed there could be no denying the scale of the problem.
“Three jumbo jets go down every day, in terms of global maternal mortality,” she said, while noting a number of knock-on effects, among them, that the infant is much more likely to die; poorer health prospects for those who survive; and higher rates of physical and sexual abuse.
Then there is the impact on the community and the economy at large. These are children who are less likely to earn productively.
Things are improving, Professor Homer noted, although not as quickly as we would like. Multiple interventions on multiple levels are critical.
“In some countries, midwives have been trained [and] educated and sent out into the villages and communities with no equipment, with no telephone, with no resources and no way to refer anybody,” Professor Homer said.
“And the maternal mortality and other rates have not fallen and people have said, ‘see, it doesn’t work!’”
Quality of care is now the critical area of focus.
In previous years, increasing the health workforce was seen as the key to reducing rates of maternal mortality. While this was true up to a point, any hope of gaining further traction depends on access.
“Care must be organised, it must be available, accessible, acceptable and of quality to the recipients and to the providers,” Professor Homer said.
“Only then can the nations most affected by maternal mortality aspire to meet the sustainable development goals.”
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