Women & Gender

 {Photo Credit: Rui Pires}A pregnant woman is given an ultrasound.Photo Credit: Rui Pires

(This post originally appeared on the Next Billion website.)

Why Greater Ultrasound Availability Doesn’t Always Benefit Patients

Advances in health technologies have reshaped the lives of communities, families and individuals, undoubtedly contributing to better health outcomes around the world. For the most vulnerable populations, technology may significantly improve access to preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services and help increase demand for greater quality care. Yet, despite their potential, new technologies can also add new challenges, risking potential gains in quality, safety or cost. Particularly in settings where health systems are weak, the introduction of technological interventions requires thoughtful execution.

 {Photo credit: MSH-Perú staff}Women leaders at a fair in Bolivia share healthy eating tips to pregnant and breastfeeding women.Photo credit: MSH-Perú staff

A partnership with MSH-Perú and White Ribbon Alliance is promoting self-care in Bolivia

On a bright July day in San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia, 13 indigenous women leaders gathered in the central plaza around a long table decorated with bowls of beans, rice, plantains, corn, tomatoes, greens, and other foods. As part of an all-day fair to promote the health and nutrition of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, these indigenous women leaders presented their dishes to over 150 community members and local officials, gathered in the plaza to celebrate the town’s anniversary, and offered ideas on how to cook with locally- grown ingredients provided by the national government’s food subsidy program.

Through the White Ribbon Alliance’s Self-Care Initiative, MSH-Perú is organizing workshops and other outreach activities, to motivate women in 11 indigenous Bolivian communities to actively care for themselves, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, by practicing healthy behaviors, and preparing nutritious meals.

 {Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH}Women learn about their pregnancies during a pregnancy club session in eastern Uganda.Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH

Earlier this year we wrote about our ongoing experience reaching pregnant women in Uganda with a model that we called “pregnancy clubs” – an effort to improve the quality of health services women receive during pregnancy and after delivery by organizing them into groups to discuss their personal experiences and learn important self-care skills, guided by a healthcare provider. The region where we are working is particularly vulnerable because there are very high rates of adolescent pregnancy (30.6%), and younger women often find that services are unable to meet their specific needs – especially for the first pregnancy. It can be a lonely time for younger women, especially if they are in a new household and a new marriage, or if experiencing stigma from pregnancy outside of marriage.

{Photo Credit: Melissa Garcia}Photo Credit: Melissa Garcia

(Cross-posted on the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception website).

With the current largest generation of young people, there is much to celebrate on August 12, International Youth Day. In particular, there is the growing recognition that as agents of change, adolescents and young people and their organisations are essential stakeholders who contribute to inclusive, just, sustainable and peaceful societies. Crucially, advocates working on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights (RR) advance access for young people in meaningful ways.

 {Photo Credit: Gwenn Dubourthournieu}HIV education is a crucial aspect of family planning services.Photo Credit: Gwenn Dubourthournieu

This year’s World Population Day coincides with the Family Planning Summit—a global moment where intentions and commitments to the right to health for all are revitalized. An essential component of HIV prevention and treatment, family planning must be prioritized in global and national agendas. Here are four reasons why: 

  1. Family planning is essential to maintaining progress on HIV goals: Meeting the needs of young people, particularly in developing countries, is critical to maintaining progress and momentum in controlling the HIV and AIDS epidemic. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the youth population has nearly doubled since the beginning of the epidemic, millions more young people are entering a stage in life where they may be at increased risk of exposure to HIV. With the world’s highest fertility rates and the lowest use of modern contraception, family planning services are urgently needed to help young people protect themselves and prevent new infections.

 {Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH}A midwife in Uganda leads a group antenatal care session, an approach that can transform how quality care is delivered and experienced.Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH

For many people living in poor and underserved regions – whether rural communities or growing cities – midwives are the health system.

Midwives play a vital role for women during pregnancy and childbirth, but their care expands much more than that. Midwives provide solutions that ensure girls and women have access to a comprehensive range of services promoting their right to physical and mental health. They provide family planning and reproductive health services and care for newborns and young children not only at health facilities but also in communities. They deliver the respectful and excellent quality of care that can prevent more than 80 percent of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths worldwide.


Reaching Women in Uganda Through Pregnancy Clubs

MSH Delegation: Matthew Martin, Crystal Lander, Catharine Taylor, Marian Wentworth, Stuart Knight, Barbara Ayotte, and Alison Corbacio

As the Trump Administration released its truncated global health budget last week, ministers of health, members of civil society and the private sector, and government delegations met in Geneva for the annual World Health Assembly to discuss programs that exemplify the value of foreign assistance and its tangible effect on families in some of the poorest countries. In advance of the meeting, MSH released position statements on WHA agenda items. Dozens of governments led by Germany and South Africa, signed the Global Compact for Universal Health Coverage 2030 committing to make affordable and quality healthcare accessible for all. This year’s WHA was particularly historic with the nomination of the WHO’s first African Director-General, Dr.

{Photo credit: Amelie Sow-Dia}Charlene Chisema, a community mobilization officer, conducts an Education Through Listening session on antenatal care.Photo credit: Amelie Sow-Dia

It is early afternoon in the village of Kanjuwale at the foot of Nguluyanawambe Mountain in central Malawi. Charlene Chisema, a community mobilization officer, asks a group of local women about best antenatal care (ANC) practices.

“It should start early – in the first months,” said one woman.

“You need four visits,” said another.

“Great!” said Chisema, who works with the Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity. “How many ANC visits did you all have during your last pregnancy?”


Suddenly, a frail woman with a baby on her lap stood up, wiped a tear from her face, and said, “I will not return to ANC.”  

The women looked shocked – they were not used to such candid talk.

“Thank you for being honest,” said Chisema, leaning forward with an encouraging smile.  “Please tell us why.”


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