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{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Envision a world where every mother, every newborn, and every child has the opportunity for a healthy life.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman

Impact. Scale. Sustainability. As public health professionals, we are dedicated to high-impact and high-coverage interventions that significantly improve the health of large human populations. We also hope that the benefits become part of the timeless fabric of their families, communities, and the health system.

This triple expectation—impact, scale, and sustainability—has accompanied global health for decades and especially during the last  generation. In 1990, Dr. Thomas Bossert reported that, among five US government-funded health programs in Africa and Central America, a project’s capacity to show results was the most important factor to ensure the sustainability of its benefits.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman

A version of this post originally appeared on the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) program blog. SIAPS is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

More than 900,000 children die of pneumonia each year. Many of these cases go undiagnosed and untreated. The countdown to 2015 report notes that only 54 percent of children with pneumonia symptoms are taken to a health care provider, while the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea reports that only 31 percent of children with suspected pneumonia receive antibiotics.

 USAID's ASH Project, led by MSH, brings together global and African regional partners for a new video on addressing childhood TB.

Tuberculosis (TB) is now the leading infectious cause of death worldwide -- ahead of HIV. While major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of TB have been made since 1990, children suffering from this disease have remained neglected and vulnerable. An estimated 1 million children become ill with TB each year, and at least 200 children die each day from TB around the world.

TB is curable and preventable, but we must recognize and treat it with the least possible delay. For children experiencing TB symptoms, the primary point of health care, often community-level facilities, is an important opportunity to identify and begin treatment. Symptoms such as a persistent cough, loss of appetite and high fevers must be recognized as possible signs of TB (not just of pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition, and other common illnesses among children), and health workers must be empowered to recognize and take appropriate action. Ensuring that children can access treatment close to home is a critical step towards eliminating preventable deaths from TB. 

 {Photo credit: DRC-IHP/MSH.}A healthy, exclusively breastfed, five-month old Ataadji and mom, Thérèse. In two months, his weight increased from six to sixteen pounds.Photo credit: DRC-IHP/MSH.

This post is part of the  blog and event series on proven, impactful practices that are advancing maternal, newborn, and child survival. The series is sponsored by MSH, Jhpiego, and Save the Children.

At three months old, Thérèse’s baby boy Ataadji was malnourished and unhealthy, weighing in at only six pounds. Within two months, Ataadji had transformed into a thriving, healthy baby boy and his weight had nearly tripled. The keys to this success? An Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support group and exclusive breastfeeding.

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}Several MSH delegates gather at the Global MNH conference.Photo credit: MSH staff

The Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference held last week in Mexico City was an action-packed three days of presentations and conversations about state-of-the-art strategies to improve maternal and newborn health. Throughout it all, the following key themes stood out as critical for the post-2015 development agenda, particularly in the context of pursuing universal health coverage (UHC).

 {Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH}Elene O. and her baby, Omedji village, Benadibele health zone.Photo credit: Matthieu Koy Matili/MSH

Breastfeeding is a human right, and critical for the health of both newborn and mother. Newborns benefit from early skin-to-skin contact and the antibodies in the mother’s first milk, plus factors that protect against later obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Mothers benefit because early breastfeeding assists in uterine shrinkage and helps prevent postpartum bleeding. In addition, frequent, exclusive, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of an immediate new pregnancy.

Optimal breastfeeding is most advantageous when started within an hour of birth and continued exclusively for six months; research shows that it could save 800,00 children’s lives. Yet, globally, only 38 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively.

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 (August 1-7) focuses on supporting women breastfeeding at the workplace (“Let’s make it work”).

For many women, especially in the developing world, barriers to breastfeeding start in the home or even the health facility -- before returning to work in her household, community, or workplace.

 {Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH}MSH staff link arms in support of healthy moms and babies.Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH

UPDATE: The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015, S.1911, was introduced in the US Senate by Senators Susan Collins and Chris Coons on July 30, 2015.

Since 1990, nearly 100 million children around the world have been saved due to global efforts to reduce child mortality, and maternal deaths have been cut nearly in half. The US government has played a large role in this great success story.

Yet still, each day, more than 17,000 children’s lives and nearly 800 mothers’ lives are lost due mostly to preventable causes. If you’re like us, you think this is unacceptable. The good news is, history has shown us what we can do when we work together -- and research has backed it up.

We can end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths within a generation. But we must all play our role to make it happen!

The opportunity: A more coordinated US strategy

This week, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (PDF) will be introduced in Congress, calling for the scaling up of simple solutions and requiring a coordinated, streamlined strategy to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2035.

{Photo credit: Jawad Jalali-Afghan Eyes}Photo credit: Jawad Jalali-Afghan Eyes

Update, July 30, 2015:

Prior to 2002, the vast majority of health service delivery systems in Afghanistan were non-existent or informal. The Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG)-Afghanistan project improved family planning, reproductive health, and maternal and child health using strategies to strengthen health leadership developed by Afghans, for Afghans.

See the Journey to Restoration on Exposure

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