Public Forum on Maternal & Child Health
March 6, 2010
CSIS held a public forum to discuss long-term strategies for improving maternal and child health at Barnard College in New York, in preparation for the roll-out of the completed Report of the CSIS Commission on Smart Global Health Policy, A Healthier, Safer, and More Prosperous World. The forum brought together five Commissioners, including, Debora Spar, Helene Gayle, Representative Kay Granger, Joe Rospars and Pat Mitchell—combining expertise in medicine, mass communications, new media and policy.
Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, opened the discussion by explaining the Commission’s specific focus on women and girls. “…as the Commission started to dig deeper into this huge issue of global health, the more specific issues of maternal and child health rose pretty swiftly to the top of the Commission’s agenda.” She continued by saying that women should have the resources, knowledge and ability to control their reproductive lives.
Helene Gayle, President of CARE and cochair of the CSIS Commission, discussed the leadership role of the United States and the three reasons why the U.S. should take an active and expansive role in global health. She highlighted the “smart power” component of global health and noted that these investments are integral to our own strategic interests. Second, she said “the world is counting on us“; the world has made remarkable progress in fighting AIDS, Malaria, and many are now free from the burdens of polio and measles. Lastly, investing in global health is important because “it’s the right thing to do,” and as a blessed nation, the U.S. cannot continue to develop own human capacity if we watch millions suffer and do nothing.
Media experts Joe Rospars, Cofounder of BlueStateDigital and former New Media Director for the Obama Campaign, and Pat Mitchell, President of the Paley Center for Media, provided input by placing the topic of Maternal and Child Health in the context of mass media and online community building.
“One of the things that I hoped to bring to the Commission’s work was to open it up and bring that sense of transparency and involvement to the work that the Commission was doing,” Joe Rospars said, “The premise of the website… is that there are a couple thousand people who have that same experience as the Commissioner—but are also on the front lines seeing where the global health system is breaking down and where there are opportunities for improvement. By offering these opportunities on [SmartGlobalHealth.org] we actually collected a community of thousands of people who made significant contributions to the Commission’s work.” Joe continued by showcasing the Commission’s trip to the Pumwani Maternity Hospital over the August tour of Kenya and highlighted the high number of essays submitted to the website that focused on the importance of health for women and girls. Pat Mitchell discussed the need for increased media focus on the topic of global health; “What is the role of this interconnected media world we now live in? What can we do with this power to bring new solutions, new ways to improve the statistics that you’ve been hearing about today… …We are connected and what happens everywhere connects us all.”
Representative Kay Granger, Ranking Member for the State of Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, discussed the difficulty of convincing constituents and other policymakers the value of global health investments during a recession. You need to convince people “that investments in the programs, like the ones cited in [The Final Report], are good for us as United States citizens because they are good for the world... The investment in child and maternal health is absolutely key. If you have healthy mothers you have healthy families, and if you have healthy families you have healthy communities.”
View the full slideshow from this event: