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PROGRAM PRIORITY: WOMEN'S HEALTH

In many parts of the world, women’s health is neglected in research, budget, and policy priorities. Among the most critical areas is maternal mortality. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 500,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year.  Millions more suffer lasting injuries or disability. Maternal mortality is the leading cause of early death and disability among women of reproductive age in many developing countries; often, women die because technology that has been available for decades is not present when they are pregnant and when they give birth. The World Bank reports that there is no single cause of death for men that comes close to the scale of maternal mortality.

A myriad of reasons exist for this, one of which is the failure to fulfill women’s right to health information, education, and services. Women are often unable to exert control over their own reproductive health in part because they are uninformed about available services as well as the health risks and benefits of procedures or practices. In other cases, the infrastructure and training to deliver essential maternal care have not been developed, and few mechanisms exist to make it easier for women in rural or poor areas to access essential care. Often, the lack of community-based data means that the number of maternal deaths and disabilities is not accurately measured.

HEALTHRIGHT INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE:
Saving lives through education, information, and health system capacity
 
HealthRight International is committed to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, expanding access to health care for women, providing education and services addressing reproductive health, and empowering women to advocate for appropriate health services for themselves and their communities. HealthRight programs work to build lasting access to health for women through a comprehensive set of approaches, including:
 

  • Building and improving health system infrastructure, such as maternity wards and systems for gathering data
  • Building provider capacity – at facilities and in the community – to provide quality maternal and reproductive health care
  • Disseminating accurate and comprehensive information on healthy practices as well as services available for women’s health, and empowering women to make decisions to promote their and their family’s health
  • Raising community awareness about women’s health needs and challenges, engaging women, men, and community leaders ranging from government officials to village chief


SUCCESSES AND RECENT INITIATIVES

In Kosovo, HealthRight developed a model for and constructed Women’s Wellness Centers, providing women with access to a continuum of reproductive health services and counseling under one roof. Since 2005, the Centers – now owned and operated by the Kosovo Ministry of Health – have provided services to tens of thousands of women in Kosovo.
 
In the Northern Rift Valley of Kenya, HealthRight’s Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health, working in collaboration with the local Ministry of Health staff, has taken a multi-pronged approach to improving women’s access to maternal health care, including renovating facilities for delivery and emergency obstetric care, developing mobile clinics to reach isolated communities, and training hundreds of health providers and community members.
 
In Russia, Ukraine, and most recently in Viet Nam, HealthRight’s MAMA+ Project is a comprehensive model for ensuring access to information, services, and support for HIV-positive pregnant women and mothers, and empowering them to care for their children in the family environment. The model takes a client-centered approach to treating and caring for those living with HIV. Since 2005, the MAMA+ Project has provided a continuum of services to hundreds of women, their children, and other family members.
 
In Nepal, HealthRight has partnered with local organizations serving women and girls who are survivors of trafficking and gender-based violence. HealthRight established health clinics at six locally-run shelters across Nepal, providing access to quality on-site health services and counseling to thousands of shelter residents and community members.