Office of Government Relations

EPPN Global Health Series: Maternal and Child Health

May 13, 2020
Office of Government Relations

By: Patricia Kisare

This week our global health series focuses on maternal and child health. Years of research and experience have shown that preventative measures, early diagnosis, and low-cost health interventions are critical for any health condition including maternal and child health care. Since 1990, mortality rates among children have decreased by 50 percent, and maternal deaths have decreased by nearly 45 percent. These advances have largely been achieved using simple solutions and proven, inexpensive interventions to address leading causes of death, including diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and complications during pregnancy and birth. On the other hand, over 295,000 women and 5 million children die every year from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Children under 5 years old are most impacted, especially newborns who die at significant rates. Maternal and child death rates are particularly high in low- and lower-middle-income countries. 

The Episcopal Church has a long history of supporting initiatives to improve quality of life of the most vulnerable, including pregnant and post-natal women and their young children. Since 2003, the General Convention has endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their successor, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are multilateral initiatives that include commitments to improving maternal and child health outcomes. The Episcopal Church has engaged on this issue in multifaceted ways: by raising awareness and mobilizing action, prayer, and through advocacy. Episcopal Relief & Development and Anglican partners are also working to improve maternal and child health in low-income countries.

Research shows that the first 1,000 days of life are foundational in developing a child’s capacity to learn, grow, and thrive for years to come. Ensuring children receive adequate nutrition, vaccinations, and other basic health interventions during this time period significantly decreases their mortality risk or the risk of developing serious health conditions later in life. Poor nutrition for infants and toddlers can cause irreversible damage to their growing brain, and malnutrition is responsible for almost half of all child deaths worldwide. Since an infant’s health is directly impacted by her mother’s health during pregnancy, and because women most often continue to serve as the primary caregivers to children even after birth, effective investment in maternal health also has direct, positive benefits to children’s health.

The U.S. government has been leading global efforts to end preventable maternal and child deaths through bilateral and multilateral partnerships. These efforts include providing financial and technical assistance to low-income countries with high maternal and under-five years mortality rates. In 2014, the U.S. government declared ending preventable child and maternal deaths around the world a national priority, a welcome call to action. The U.S. Agency for International Development is the lead government agency on this work. Moving forward, the Office of Government Relations will continue to advocate for funding resources and better maternal and child health policies.  

Additional Resources

Continue the Series

Global Health Series Week 1: Global Health Security
Global Health Series Week 3: HIV/AIDS
Global Health Series Week 4: Malaria

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