As maternal and newborn mortality rates rise worldwide, mothers and children are becoming increasingly vulnerable. One of Rotary’s core concerns is maternal and child care. Rotary has spent the last several years working to enhance access to high quality care for women and children in low-income backgrounds, giving them long-term prospects for a healthy future.
What is Maternal Health?
“If mothers are empowered and healthy, so are their families, leading to an alleviation of poverty and hunger.”
`-Robert Zinser, co-founder of the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development.
As the above statement states, a healthy mother means a healthy child. This emphasizes the concept of maternal health and the mother’s mental and physical health to take care of her children. Maternal health generally refers to women’s health conditions during their pregnancies, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Direct Obstetric Fatalities and Indirect Obstetric Deaths are the two types of maternal deaths. Direct obstetric deaths occur due to pregnancy, labour, and puerperium complications due to interventions, omissions, wrong treatment, or a combination of the above. Indirect Obstetric Deaths are caused by pre-existing conditions exacerbated by pregnancy’s physiological consequences. Postpartum haemorrhage, hypertensive abnormalities such as pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, infections, unsafe abortion, and other delivery-related issues account for almost three-quarters of maternal fatalities.
Improving maternal health is critical in preserving the lives of more than 500,000 women who die each year as a consequence of complications during pregnancy and child delivery. It is important to notice that the majority of maternal fatalities could be avoided through awareness and adequate healthcare. However, there are gaps between some of the countries that are persistent and are caused due to disparities in socio-economic status and access to healthcare services.
Challenging social settings for girls and women, limited coverage and usage of antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, and poor care quality continue to be significant obstacles in reaching these goals. Most women do not receive adequate maternity care due to several socio-economic conditions such as poverty, poor quality services, cultural myths and beliefs and demographical inequalities. These lead to women not seeking professional healthcare services during their pregnancy.
Child Health Care
Children are essential to a country’s present, and future and their health must be protected and improved at all costs. Significant progress has been made in improving children’s health under the age of five, lowering their mortality rate during the last several decades. However, there is still work to be done to enhance children’s health, as more than half of the children under the age of five die from diseases that might be readily avoided or cured. Close to 6 million children under the age of five are predicted to die each year due to malnutrition, inadequate health care, and poor sanitation, all of which could be avoided through proper health care and better living circumstances.
Rotary’s efforts in Improving Maternal & Child Health
Maternal & Child Health remains one of Rotary’s main focus areas. This draws attention to several aspects of reducing the mortality rate of mothers and children under the age of five. Consulting Midwives, obstetricians, and gynecologists connected to Rotary in collaboration with external groups and organizations that specialize in maternal and child health is a great way to build programs that educate mothers. Rotary has also identified that enabling the local community to take ownership of health training initiatives is important to ensure the long-term sustainability of these programs.
Rotary continues to provide assistance related to education, birth kits, immunizations and mobile health clinics that are helpful in uplifting maternal and child health. Educating mothers on methods of breastfeeding ways to protect themselves and their children also spreads awareness in HIV transmission via mother-to-infant and ways of avoiding.
Protecting children, who are the world’s future, requires educating pregnant and nursing mothers on basic hygiene, nutrition, and contemporary family planning methods. All pregnancies and childbirths must be timely managed, intervened and treated by skillful healthcare professionals. The hemorrhages associated with maternity could be avoided by injecting oxytocic following childbirth. Pre-eclampsia and several other infections need to be avoided before the onset of life-threatening convulsions and complications. It is found that breast-fed children are healthier and less susceptible to illness than those who are not. As a result, supporting proper nutrition via breastfeeding is an excellent place to begin. Immunizations and medications against illnesses including measles, malaria, pneumonia, AIDS, and diarrheal diseases are critical in safeguarding children. They are still the significant causes of mortality in children under five. Moreover, increasing the use of antiretroviral medications and formula feeding can help to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child.
Family Planning & Proper Education
Preventing unplanned pregnancies is key to reducing the risks associated with maternity. All women, including adolescent girls, should be made aware and given access to contraception. Additionally, more emphasis needs to be given to adolescent girls under age 15 as they are at a very high risk of maternal fatalities.
When considering reproductive health promotion, the classroom is an excellent place to start. Schools can assist young people in acquiring the fundamental skills required to build a healthy environment. Decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, self-evaluation, and coping mechanisms are all examples of such life skills.
People who possess these abilities are more likely to have a healthy lifestyle as they are more aware of the conditions and the risks associated with most conditions. For this reason, it is found that people in developed countries have lower maternal fatalities compared to underdeveloped countries.
This is where proper education goes hand in hand with Rotary focus areas. While the objectives of Rotary add to the maternal newborn targets by promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, access to family planning services, contraception, and safe abortion, it also directly complements education. Together they could lay a foundation for creating an environment that promotes good health that necessitates coordinated work at all levels, within and across all sectors of society. As a result, better decisions could be made, and groundwork for meaningful social and economic progress could be established.
We can work towards improving the health of mothers and their children by:
1. Reducing the neonatal and newborn mortality rate
2. Reducing the mortality and morbidity rate of children under five
3. Reducing the maternal mortality and morbidity rate
4. Improving access to essential medical services, trained community health workers, and health care providers
5. Funding graduate scholarships for career-minded professionals related to maternal and child health
Penned by Rtr. Sanduni Edirimanne in collaboration with the District Editorial Team