Helping mothers stay healthy gives their children the best possible chance of growing up strong and healthy themselves. This might seem obvious, but it also leads in turn to healthier communities, stronger economies and prosperity - a priority shared by governments, civil society and global business alike.
Last month I was at an Every Woman Every Child event held in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly week, where heads of state, business leaders, philanthropists - even some celebrities - joined together with the aim to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.
This is an ambitious target, especially considering that 800 women die every day around the world from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth - 99% of which are in developing countries. The devastating impact of Ebola on children, spelled out by Save the Children at the Defeating Ebola conference in London earlier this month, simply adds to the urgency. But people are responding. #Commit2deliver, the hashtag used to generate support for such commitments and call for greater accountability from global leaders, was trending on Twitter during the UNGA.
Here are the 5 things I took away from the discussions about #Commit2deliver.
1. The Innovation Pipeline is rich and getting richer
To make an appreciable difference in maternal and child health, new and innovative medicines, devices and interventions are critical. At the EWEC event, we were able to see a handful of such innovations; for instance, Phillips showcased a brilliant portable ultrasound machine, about the size of a palmtop which could revolutionise maternal healthcare in remote settings in Africa. Similarly, Monash University is working in collaboration with GSK to develop an innovative form of inhaled oxytocin to manage bleeding after child birth. The project aims to take a life saving medicine that currently can only be injected and turn it to an inhaler that one day might even sit in a community health worker's bag. These simple, yet clever ideas could make a real difference in resource-poor settings.
2. Time to be bold & take a chance at scale
Most investors are waiting for that perfect idea to fall on their lap and thus missing out on a number of potential opportunities. Innovations can only be taken to scale and reach all those who could benefit if there is money behind them. Let's be bold and accept that there will be some attrition before we land on the perfect idea. It was heartening to see the World Bank and various member governments have created a new Global Financing Facility (GFF) to bring about more progress on health-related MDGs, especially women's and children's health - kudos to the bold leaders making this possible!
3. People need to work together
Key to progress is collaboration - support can come from governments (as the GFF illustrates) and it can also come from business and civil society. Working together each can learn from and influence the other, combining complementary skills, resources and expertise to bring about more effective results. Leading to 2015, we have a fresh chance to adopt new approaches with the SDGs.
4. It's all about education too
What was really apparent last week was the role of education in improving maternal and child health. Good quality primary education for girls drastically and consistently improves their prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates. Educating future mums greatly cuts the death rate of children under five. Female education and empowerment also has a ripple effect on wider developmental issues like poverty, infant mortality, population growth, trafficking, and FGM. Although a lot of progress is being made, bankable change will start when each one of us champions this approach and reflect it in our immediate families -it is all too easy to only look afar.
5. Support is coming from unlikely places
Let's be honest, I was surprised to see Victoria Beckham sat next to Michelle Sidibé at the meeting. But in her new role as a goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS, she's working to highlight changes needed to ensure that children are born free from HIV by making sure mothers have access to the education, support and treatments they need to keep their babies healthy - kudos to Victoria for taking on this noble role!
Brought together under the Every Woman Every Child partnership umbrella, these new creative solutions along with resources, collaboration and commitment will be able to make a difference to women and children, save lives and improve the prospects of future generations.