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Harsh Vardhan outlines key actions to reduce maternal and child deaths

Dr. Harsh Vardhan proposed six key actions that will enable them to accelerate the efforts.

By: Press Trust of India | Washington |
Updated: June 26, 2014 12:09:05 pm
Dr.-Harsh-Vardhan The day-long event was organized on June 25 by the USAID, India and Ethiopia in association with the Melinda and Gates Foundation. (Source: AP)

Asserting that the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035 is well within reach, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has outlined six key actions to accelerate and achieve this goal.

This includes the power of belief, partnership, evidence, communication and gender equality, and untapped power in health financing and organization.

Calling upon the global leaders on the urgent need to invest in ‘Girl Child Education’ to realize the goal of Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths, Vardhan said in his key note address to the international meet.

Speaking at the meeting on “Acting on the Call:  Ending preventable child and maternal deaths,” he asserted that it is collective responsibility to ensure that the investments and the benefits of development reach every mother and child, for creating a better future for the generations to come.

“It is now evident that with the sustained efforts across the globe with a focus on equity, the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035 seems well within our reach,” Vardhan said.

The day-long event was organized by the USAID, India and Ethiopia in association with the Melinda and Gates Foundation.

“By now, we are also certain about the investments which countries need to make to save the lives of 15 million children and almost 600,000 mothers by 2020,” he added.

Noting that India is committed to take a leadership role in ending preventable child and maternal deaths, both in India and globally, Vardhan said a strong vision and leadership by governments can make a critical contribution to further accelerate the momentum already in place to end preventable deaths.

“As Ministers of Health, we must return to our countries and review comprehensively our progress to date, identify next steps, and do whatever is needed and in our power to take this initiative to the next level,” he said addressing the meeting which was attended by health ministers and leaders from countries across the globe.

Transparency and mutual accountability can be achieved through country-led, inclusive, transparent, and participatory oversight processes, he added.

On behalf of the global health leaders, he proposed six key actions that will enable them to accelerate the efforts.

“First, the Power of Belief” Vardhan said as he narrated his experience of setting the goal of polio eradication from the country.

“Let us not underestimate the power of believing that we can end preventable child and maternal deaths as well. Now is the time for ‘Acting on the Call’. We have the necessary interventions and tools. What is needed first is the belief that we can END and not merely reduce, preventable deaths,” he said.

We must provide the leadership to instill this vision in the minds and hearts of other leaders, millions of health care providers and in the minds and hearts of the men, women, young people and children we seek to serve. Our belief must catalyze widespread commitment that will accelerate action, he added.

“Second, there is great Power in Partnerships. We must forge new partnerships to catalyze transformative impact. Bringing an end to preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035 cannot be achieved by working in silos. Governments, development partners, civil society, private and corporate sector , community leaders and the media, all have critical roles to play if we have to engineer the social change needed to end preventable deaths,” he said.

He also called for finding ways to forge alliances with the private sector in particular, both as a resource and as a provider of products and services.

Third there is untapped Power in Health Financing and Organization, he said, adding that there is now evidence to show that greater economic growth ensues from increased spending on health.

“Estimates indicate  that increasing health expenditure by a mere USD 5 per capita per year from now until 2035 in 74 countries, would result in averting preventable deaths of 147 million children, 32 million stillbirths, and 5 million women between 2013-2035,” he said.

“We must provide the leadership to implement strategies for Universal Health Coverage to ensure that mothers and children have access to quality preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, with minimal out-of-pocket expenditure,” the minister said.

Stressing on the “Power of Evidence,” the minister said, “We should support innovations in information systems, including tapping into the incredible power of technology that enables us to reach out to providers in remote locations and even individuals on a real time basis.”

Arguing that there is tremendous Power in Communication, he said the ability to communicate with individuals, whether they are mothers, fathers, girls or boys, or providers of care to families and individuals, has immense potential to change behaviors.

“We must work in partnership with communities who bring their own capital to the generation of good health. We should encourage every individual’s participation for positive health,” he said.

Highlighting the Power of Gender Equality, Vardhan said gender inequalities continue to undermine efforts for improving the health of our population.

“Central to our vision of ending preventable deaths is the value of life, and the rights of individuals, including the ability to make their own life choices, such as age at marriage, timing and number of pregnancies, and protection against violence.

This may be one of the most difficult challenges we will face. Nonetheless, we must provide the leadership to systematically promote gender equality at scale,” he said.

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