Tag Archives: Merck for Mothers

5 Best Buys for Improved Maternal Health

Last week PSI released its latest issue of Impact magazine: The Best Buys Issue. For this issue of Impact, PSI partnered with Devex, Merck for Mothers and PATH to ask one key question: What are the best buys for global health and development? During a two-hour conversation held at the Center for Global Development global health experts and practitioners discussed the best places to invest in global health and the best investments for global health dollars. Overall,  health systems strengthening emerged as the biggest best buy in global health. When health systems are improved the costs for key heath interventions subsequently decreases.

Best Buys in Global Health Panel
PANEL 1: THE VALUE OF AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT – WHAT MAKES AN INVESTMENT SUCCESSFUL? (left to right) Amanda Glassman, Director of Global Health Policy, CGD (moderator) Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, PSI, Karen Cavanaugh, Director, Office of Health Systems, USAID Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, Founder and CEO, access.mobile

Even though health system strengthening is becoming the critical catalyst that will save global health dollars across the board there are affordable interventions that keep more people alive right now. After the discussion at the Center for Global Development I asked PSI President and CEO Karl Hoffmann during a journalist round table what he believes are the best buys for global maternal health. Hoffman cited working to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia as well as investing in family planning are the three biggest best buys in maternal health.

Karen Cavenaugh, Director of the Office of Health Systems at USAID, also mentioned that investments to ensure every woman delivers her baby with a trained health provider is a global health best buy in maternal health. And, Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, Founder and CEO of access.mobile said that investments in mobile enabled vouchers that provide pregnant women with rides to hospitals to deliver their babies is proving to be another best buy to improve maternal health outcomes.

Maternal health continues to be a critical problem in low- and middle-income countries. 800 women die every day around the world while delivering their babies according to the World Health Organization. In nearly every case a mother who dies during childbirth can be saved through interventions that work.

Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million program created to reduce maternal mortality globally and that sponsored Impact‘s Best Buys issue, partners with leading NGOs to keep more mothers alive both in the United States and around the world. For example, last year Merck for Mothers partnered with PATH to fund a report on the best interventions in maternal health. PATH determined that five interventions are key to accelerating progress to achieve MDG 5 including providing greater access to oxytocin which prevents postpartum hemorrhage, introducing and educating health providers on the use of the uterine balloon tamponade that prevents postpartum bleeding, creating simplified dosing of magnesium sulfate to prevent convulsions after childbirth, accelerating improved proteinuria tests and providing better blood pressure devices.* These interventions, of course, will best work when health systems are universally improved, distribution channels are created to supply medicines to low resource settings and when the costs of medicines and supplies become more affordable.

On the supply side, businesses such as Maternova provide frontline health workers and organizations with affordable medical solutions to reduce maternal mortality like their clean birthing kit and obstetric kits. Inhaled Oxytocin, based in Australia,  is another innovative intervention that keeps more mothers alive in low-resource settings through easier ways to prevent hemorrhaging. You can read smart investments in maternal health in the latest issue of Impact (pg. 18). And, you can read more of our maternal health coverage.


*Herrick et al.: Prioritizing investments in innovations to protect women from the leading causes of maternal death. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014 14:10.

Disclosure: I was a guest of PSI for the Best Buys for Global Health conversation in Washington, DC.

Maternal Mortality in the US: The Numbers May Surprise You

When we talk about sky-high maternal mortality rates we tend to look more closely at low-income countries like Afghanistan, Chad and Somalia that have the world’s highest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the World Bank. And, of course, sub-Saharan African countries need to desperately bring their numbers down. But when you look at rich, developed countries the United States has the highest maternal mortality rates among them and the rates are not declining. In fact, maternal mortality rates in the United States have doubled over the past 25 years. African-American women are 3x more likely to die during childbirth in the United States. And, Caucasian women are more likely to die during childbirth than women in 24 other industrialized countries. 21 mothers die per 100,000 live births in the United States. Compare that to Greece (3), Finland (5), and even the United Kingdom (12) deaths per 100,000 live births.

This year as we report on maternal mortality we will also include the United States in our news reporting because the numbers are high, increasing, and are baffling researchers and doctors. They do not know concretely what is causing the doubled maternal mortality ratios although they suspect obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, health care disparities, and older mothers may be causing the steady spike in numbers in the United States.

According to Amnesty International the five main reasons women die in childbirth in the United States are:

  1. Embolism 20% – A blood clot that blocks an essential blood vessel, for example in the lungs
  2. Hemorrhage 17% – Severe blood loss
  3. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia 16% – Disorders associated with excessively high blood pressure
  4. Infection 13%
  5. Cardiomyopathy 8% – Heart muscle disease

And, according to Merck for Mothers, a woman nearly dies in childbirth every two minutes, that is more than 50,000 women annually. See infographic. Around 650 women die during childbirth or shortly thereafter based on numbers from the CDC.

UNited States

As we continue to report on maternal mortality around the world where the rates are in the hundreds per 100,000 we will not forget about the mothers who are also dying here in the United States, a country that spends the most in the world on health care.

Photo: Fotolio