International Women's Day 2018: Investing in maternal health

Burnet Institute

05 March, 2018

Leave No Woman Behind: Investing in Maternal Health - that’s the focus of the keynote address to be delivered by a trailblazer in maternal health for the past two decades – as a researcher, a midwife, a clinician and educator.

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, Distinguished Professor Caroline Homer AO, Director of the Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health at University of Technology Sydney, will share her insights at our annual IWD lunch.

Burnet supporters, friends and staff will join Professor Homer in celebrating our work to create meaningful change for women, particularly those from vulnerable communities in Australia and internationally.

Professor Homer is a lead research investigator on Burnet’s landmark Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project in Papua New Guinea (PNG). She is the Assistant Secretary General (Midwifery) for the Global Network of World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centres for Nursing and Midwifery, and an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow.

She said working in low-income countries, most recently PNG and Cambodia, had been inspiring, particularly supporting the education of new midwives.

“A graduate from one of these programs in PNG told me recently that since she returned to her village as the only trained midwife, no woman had died in childbirth,” Professor Homer said.

“The pride in which she told this story and showed photos of her humble clinic and bare essentials of equipment made all the hard work worthwhile.”

Women in PNG are 80 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in Australia and more than 5000 newborns die each year, grim statistics Burnet and the HMHB project are working hard to change.

“HMHB is generating critical new evidence to bring about change in these statistics, as well as mentoring and supporting local researchers and the health system to drive sustainable change,” Professor Homer said.

“It is a very important project that will have long-term benefits for the women and families in PNG, with applicability in many other low-income countries.”

She said if she had one wish for women this International Women’s Day, it would be that every woman could have a trained midwife with her when she gave birth.

“A midwife who has a couple of life-saving drugs, a phone to ring for help and a vehicle or motorbike to transfer to a higher level facility if complications arise – this could save hundreds of thousands of lives of women and babies,” she said.

HMHB is a philanthropically-funded collaborative research program which aims to define the major causes of poor maternal, newborn, and child health, and to identify feasible, acceptable and effective interventions to improve reproductive health outcomes in PNG.

It is investigating the roles of anaemia, malaria, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, malnutrition, and maternal complications of childbirth.

International Women’s Day is a global day of recognition and celebration held each year on 8 March. The campaign theme for IWD 2018 is #leavenowomanbehind.

Burnet Institute’s Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC said he and the Institute proudly supported the International Women’s Day event and what it stood for.

“International Women’s Day is a globally significant day and through this event we are shining the spotlight on our ground-breaking research and public health programs and the talented women who are leading them,” he said.

“There are currently 119 women at Burnet, many in senior roles, and they represent 57 per cent of our workforce. Each and every one is valued for their talent and commitment for helping us achieve our mission.”

Professor Homer said she was overwhelmingly grateful to be living in a time when issues for women and girls were front and centre, not just in her own country but also in low-income countries.

“Now is the time that change will happen and I am grateful for having the chance to be part of that change.”

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director (Programs); Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.




margaret.hellard[email protected]

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