ACOG strives to improve maternal health worldwide

Saving MothersACOG’s Office of Global Women’s Health has expanded its efforts greatly in the last few years, as it aims to improve maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide and develop and support critical ob-gyn training.

“ACOG Fellows have long been committed to working at home and abroad to decrease the number of women who die during or after childbirth,” said Barbara S. Levy, MD, ACOG’s vice president for health policy. “The College’s future efforts will include equipping our Fellows to train other health care providers in low-resource settings in effective and appropriate care.” Fellows will be able to offer ongoing support and mentoring to these providers as they run into challenges while implementing proven interventions, Dr. Levy said.

ACOG has been involved in Latin America since 1998, when it worked with the Save the Mothers program to reduce maternal mortality. The College was paired up with organizations in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which later led to the creation of ACOG’s Central America Section. The collaboration led to an ongoing Latin America initiative that continues to this day in which ACOG develops and supports critical infrastructure for the accreditation of residency programs and the administration of certification exams in Central and South America.

In addition to continuing these efforts, the Office of Global Women’s Health has recently expanded to operate in three focus areas:

  1. Contributing to global activities aimed at rapidly accelerating the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity in countries with the highest burden, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia
  2. Collaborating with evidence-based programs to create training and global service opportunities for ACOG Fellows, while developing relationships with national ob-gyn societies in low-resource countries to facilitate improvements in women’s health
  3. Helping to coordinate university ob-gyn programs with their global components to promote collaboration and improve the effectiveness of these efforts

In the area of maternal mortality and morbidity, The College has joined two public-private partnerships, Saving Mothers, Giving Life, and Survive and Thrive. Saving Mothers focuses on that critical 24 hours surrounding labor and delivery. Launched in 2012, Saving Mothers is a partnership between ACOG, the US and Norwegian governments, Every Mother Counts, and Merck for Mothers. The program has begun with pilot projects in Uganda and Zambia, working with local health offices to train health workers, upgrade facilities, and encourage more women to give birth in safe locations. (Learn more in “Saving Mothers, Giving Life targets critical 24 hours.”)

Survive and Thrive is a global development alliance between ACOG, the US Agency for International Development, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nurse-Midwives, Laerdal Global Health, Johnson and Johnson, Jhpiego, Maternal Child Health Integrated Program, Save the Children, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Starting in Burma, the partners are working with the Ministry of Health to train and mobilize the country’s health practitioners on interventions in maternal, newborn, and child health. (Read more in “Survive and Thrive begins efforts in Burma.”)

The College’s efforts to decrease maternal mortality and morbidity can also be beneficial in the US. “Global health” does not mean focusing solely outside our own country, Dr. Levy said. “It’s important that as we work with our colleagues around the world, we also contribute to programs here in the US to reduce maternal and infant mortality and to strengthen proven strategies,” she said.

In the future, The College plans to work with US university programs already operating women’s health programs around the world to facilitate a coordinated effort within countries. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we can help connect universities, health care systems, medical associations, and nonprofit organizations so that we can combine our efforts and not operate as silos,” Dr. Levy said.

By working with programs that are sustainable, measurable, and effective, The College and its partners can help improve maternal and infant health worldwide.


Photo courtesy of Saving Mothers, Giving Life

Copyright 2013, ACOG Today, Office of Communications,

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
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