Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from the boondocks west of Manila!

Below are update studies and reports done regarding health. The greater focus on the materials is reproductive health. This has great relevance for the Philippines in particular, where reproductive health has been a raging public policy issue for some time now.

There is so much mis-understanding about reproductive health on the side of church players and conservative groups who now manifestly equate reproductive health with killing babies. It is best that those stakeholders should get exposed to the research & development updates about reproductive health, and they should desist from using reproductive health to heap up hysteria aimed at a new Inquisition that will see millions of ‘heathen burnt at stake’.

[Philippines, 26 June 2011]


Maternal, newborn, child and reproductive health

Produced by: The Global Health Council (2010)

This position paper on maternal, newborn, child and reproductive health contains detailed information about each health area, the key interventions that are needed and the Global Health Council’s positions and recommendations for making progress in these areas.

Key conclusions from this paper are:
• improved maternal, newborn and child health can enable families to break out of a cycle of ill health and poverty that may otherwise continue for generations.
• smaller family size and appropriately spaced births allow families and governments to invest more in each child’s education and health, which raises productivity and economic growth.
• poor health adversely affects family income, caregiving, and productivity.
• illness and death contribute to the impoverishment of families through medical expenditures they can ill afford, reducing funds for necessities, such as food and education.
The paper also makes the following recommendations:
• promote integrated programmes.
• focus on health systems.
• establish standard metrics and methodologies.
• conduct epidemiological assessments.
• deliver health systems in an equitable manner.
• promote national authority.
• hold stakeholders accountable for results.
• increase resources to maternal, newborn, child and reproductive health.
• increase support to country-led efforts.
• harmonise funding from all sources.
• hold governements to their international agreement commitments.
• encourage partnerships and evidence- based programming.

Available online at:

Champions for children: state of the world’s mothers 2011

Produced by: Save the Children Fund, USA (2011)

This State of the World’s Mothers report ranks 164 countries on women’s access to health care, education and opportunities. Whereas millions of children are alive today because of past investments in lifesaving programs, the authors note that 22,000 children still perish per day, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.

The authors contend that Norway is the world’s best place to be a mother. Also, eight of the 10 top-ranked countries are in Western Europe, and the remaining two are in the southern hemisphere, with Australia ranking second and New Zealand eighth. On the other hand, eight of the world’s 10 worst countries to be a mother are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The worst place in the world to be a mother, according to the authors, is Afghanistan. The authors argue that despite ongoing conflict and rising civilian casualties, expecting mothers in Afghanistan are at least 200 times more likely to die during childbirth than from bombs or bullets. A case in point is the fact that one in 11 Afghan women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications in her lifetime and only 14 percent of mothers in the country give birth with help from any kind of skilled health worker. In Norway, by comparison, the risk of maternal mortality is only 1 in 7,600 and nearly all births are attended by skilled help.

The report notes that in many countries, vaccines, antibiotics, and care during pregnancy are hard to reach and as a result child and maternal death rates are very high.

In light of this, the authors conclude that while many countries are making progress, many are still lagging behind and thus in need of support. Finally, the authors argue that effective solutions to this challenge are affordable – even in the world’s poorest countries.

Available online at:

Good practice guide: community mobilisation through women’s groups to improve the health of mothers and babies

Produced by: Women and Children First (UK) (2011)

This good practice guide, based on the experience of a project in India and Bangladesh called Saving Mothers and Children, describes an approach that has the potential to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, and to address other health problems. The project worked through women’s groups, using a participatory learning and action cycle, to mobilise community action to improve the health of mothers and babies.

The aim of the guide is to provide a case study of good practice in working with women’s groups to address maternal and newborn health and to share lessons learned from this experience. While the guide describes an approach used in rural communities in India and Bangladesh, this can be successfully adapted to different contexts.

In India, the project resulted in a 45 per cent reduction in newborn deaths and a reduction in maternal deaths, as well as a 57 per cent reduction in moderate maternal depression. In Bangladesh, the project resulted in an increase in uptake of health services. In both India and Bangladesh, the project resulted in a significant improvement in hygienic delivery practices, including use of delivery kits, and an increase in exclusive breastfeeding.

The project was implemented by an NGO, Ekjut, in India and the PerinatalCare Project of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh (BADAS) in Bangladesh, together with the University College London Centre for International Health and Development and Women and Children First, an international NGO based in the UK.

In India, Ekjut worked in tribal communities in West Singhbhum and Saraikela Kharswan districts of Jharkhand State and the Keonjhar district of Orissa State. In Bangladesh, BADAS worked with three rural districts, Bogra, Faridpur and Moulavibazar.

Available online at:

Saving new born lives in Nigeria: new born health in the context of the integrated maternal, newborn and child health strategy

Produced by: Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria (2011)

This report contains new data that shows that as the death toll in Nigeria is falling, the percentage of deaths that happen in the first month of life is increasing. The authors report that newborn deaths now make up 28% of all deaths under five years compared to 24% two years ago. Also, six out of 10 mothers give birth at home without access to skilled care during childbirth and it is in the first few days of life when both women and newborns are most at risk. The authors argue that, since 241,000 babies die in the first month of life in Nigeria every year, Nigeria is the African country with the highest newborn death toll.

Key findings from the report:
• Nigeria’s mothers, newborns and children are dying in large numbers – nearly 3,000 each day.
• most of these young lives could be saved with existing interventions.
• the key interventions to save newborn lives are mostly possible through the existing health system and will prevent the deaths of mothers and older children– but coverage remains very low.
• more than a third of children’s deaths are attributed to maternal and child undernutrition.
• the policies needed to reduce newborn mortality are mostly in place and the cost is affordable.
• inadequate funding and stewardship of resources at all levels hampers the performance of the Nigerian health care system.
• the Nigerian health system is relatively rich in human resources comparedto many other African countries. However, there is inequitable distribution of staff to offer maternal, newborn and child health services.

The report calls for an increased focus on reducing newborn deaths, the vast majority of which are avoidable. The authors contend that thousands of newborn lives can be saved via simple methods, such as teaching mothers about danger signs, encouraging them to seek help early and making sure there is enough medicine and enough healthcare workers at community health centres. Whereas the policies are mostly in place and the cost is affordable, the authors argue that priority must be given to implementing these policies and making sure all families receive essential care.

Recommended actions for healthcare decision makers:
• ensure leadership, appropriate funding and accountability.
• orient policies, guidelines and services to include newborn care.
• effectively plan for and implement policies, including human resources, equipment and supplies.
• track progress and use the data to improve programmes.
• inform and communicate.

Available online at:

See our Health Resource Guide for a complete list of new additions at:

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