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How Canada Can Reduce Maternal Mortality at the G8 Summit

February 25, 2010

Prime Minister Harper just announced that he wants maternal and child health on the agenda for this year’s G8/G20 summits. “Canada can do this by taking the plan of action that was put together and given to the G8 leaders, before the 2009 G8 summit in Rome, by parliamentarians from around the world. This plan calls for an investment in primary health care with clear objectives, timelines, resource allocation, and division of responsibilities amongst G8 and G20 members,” said Dr. Keith Martin, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca and chair of the committee of parliamentarians who drafted the “Strategic Investments in Times of Crisis” report in Rome.

“Building capacity in primary health care is the key to dramatically reduce maternal and infant mortality and improve the health of entire populations. This involves providing access to trained health care workers, basic medical supplies, clean water, power, diagnostics, and a full array of contraceptive options. Universities in the West can also partner with institutions in the developing world to use their professional and technical skills to build capacity in low-income countries,” said Dr. Martin.

Every minute of every day, a woman dies in childbirth; 530,000 lives are lost every year. Ninety-five per cent of these deaths are in the developing world, and 80 per cent of these maternal deaths are from five entirely preventable or treatable causes: sepsis, haemorrhage, eclampsia, obstructed labour, and as a consequence of a septic abortion. Compounding this tragedy is the fact that more than half of these women’s children who are under the age of five will die before they reach adulthood.

Although investing in maternal care through building a competent primary health care system provides the most powerful improvements in a population’s health, this area has received the least amount of money and attention.

“This cannot continue, and this summer Canada can change this. We must,” said Dr. Martin.

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