Around 800 women are dying each day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, most commonly from blood loss. And for every woman who dies, approximately 20 others suffer serious injuries, infections or disabilities (UNICEF). Over 99 per cent of the maternal deaths that occur could be prevented if women had access to skilled health personnel to assist with the birth; and timely access to emergency care when complications arise.
Poverty is the key cause that prevents women from having access to the health services they need during pregnancy and childbirth. Sadly, for this reason, many of our neighbouring Pacific Island Countries in the Oceania region are over-represented in maternal mortality statistics.
The primary goal of The Dame Jane Foundation is to use education to improve maternal health outcomes – covering the period when women are pregnant, give birth and those early few weeks after birth. We no longer want to live in a world where a woman dies giving birth almost every 2 minutes of every day. Instead we want to contribute to a more sustainable and fairer world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every newborn is healthy .
We recognise that maternal health is not a “women’s issue”. It is about the integrity of communities, societies and nations, and the well-being of all the men, women, boys and girls whose own prospects in life depend upon healthy women and mothers.
Our focus is on education. We are working to improve the quality and availability of maternal health services, with a focus on midwifery and maternal nursing services. We are also working to raise awareness of the disparities in maternal health care across the world and the devastating impact on families inadequate care can bring. Through our efforts we hope to improve womens’ experience in childbirth and encourage more people to get involved in making the world a better place.
Our maternal health project – upskilling to deliver – is about improving the health skills of maternal nurses and midwives to deliver long-term reductions in preventable deaths (mortality) and serious health conditions (morbidity) associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
There are a couple of ways we seek to do this. We seek to increase:
- direct investment in the education of midwives and related professions; and
- investment in faculty development – to improve the quality of the teaching staff and facilities in universities, hospitals and other medical training institutions so they can offer higher quality courses to midwifery students.
Better skilled medical staff and higher quality facilities and services not only helps to save lives it also helps to ensure a positive and fulfilling experience for women, and their families, during this special time in their lives.
Maternal health outcomes can be further enhanced by educating mothers and their families. An individual’s health, their lifestyle and mental state are all important factors in achieving good maternal health outcomes and ensuring a positive experience. Part of the investment in upskilling midwives and related professions is intended to improve communication skills so they can teach people planning or preparing for childbirth. This includes informing people about when and how to access the medical and other services that are available to assist them. Greater understanding helps to connect people to the services that best suits them and helps the patients contribute to achieving a better overall experience for themselves, the baby and other family members.
Even small actions can lead to significant and life-enhancing changes.
Maternal health is a key element of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal on health and well-being (Goal 3). The UN has set two explicit targets relating to maternal health:
Target 3.1: By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births.
Target 3.2: By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births.
These are ambitious targets. UN countries have made concerted efforts between 1990 to 2015 to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio. Under Millennium Development Goal 5 they sought to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio by 75%. While this was one of the goals for which the least progress was made, global efforts did reduce the ratio by 44% so that in 2015 the global maternal mortality ratio was 216 deaths per 100,000 live births compared with 385 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990.
For more information on the topic of maternal health you could start here: