Advocating for Maternal Health and NTDs

By: Christopher Lindahl

The relationship between maternal health and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is pretty well documented here, here, here, here, and here. It seems pretty clear that controlling NTDs will have a positive impact on maternal health.

However, another way to think about the relationship between maternal health and NTDs is to look at the similarities between the two, as global health issues, and develop ways that advocates can learn from each other regarding how to best promote solutions.

The Global Network site provides a summary of facts about NTDs that reads similarly to what one might say about maternal health. Basically, substituting “maternal mortality” for “NTDs” (with some editing for context) leaves you with statements that are still true.

Around half of the world’s population is at risk of maternal mortality in their lifetime.

1. Maternal mortality is a problem of poverty, afflicting the world’s poorest and trapping them in a cycle of poverty.

2. The global burden of maternal mortality is equivalent to about half of the combined global burden of HIV/AIDS,TB and malaria for women.

3. OK, there may not be a perfect corollary for number 3…

4. Maternal mortality is preventable in nearly all situations by safe and effective methods already in existence.

5. With appropriate partnerships and actions, programs to decrease maternal mortality can be implemented at marginal costs.

Both NTDs (it’s even in the name!) and maternal health are issues that have been neglected on the global scale and need effective advocates to ensure a continued place on the global health agenda. Those working in maternal health and on NTDs can learn from each other in terms of how to bring attention to an issue that affects a large number of people, is relatively straightforward to deal with, and can be addressed at low costs.

What messages are successful in raising awareness of maternal health issues? Could similar messages be relevant to the NTD community? And vice versa? What lessons can we learn from each other to ensure that our issues get to and remain at the forefront of the global health community? What systems and infrastructure need to be in place in resource poor areas in order to promote the eradication of NTDs? Are these the same for maternal mortality?

Christopher Lindahl, MPA, is a Knowledge Management Assistant on the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth.

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