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Moderated by Rachel Wilson (second from left), Altrena Mukuria, Jane Hutchings, and Goldy Mazia share their experiences in implementing integrated family health programs. Photo: PATH/Megan Miller.

On June 10, 2010, representatives from across the global health community joined PATH experts for a panel discussion on integrated solutions for family health. The event was the latest in the Conversations in Global Health series of policy dialogues in PATH’s Washington, DC, office. It included global health advocates and implementers as well as staff from the Pan American Health Organization, the World Bank, and other multilateral organizations.

Increased synergies

Panelists discussed the increasing synergies between maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH), family planning, and nutrition and looked at how President Obama’s Global Health Initiative will integrate MNCH programs with infectious disease interventions. PATH experts spoke about the realities of implementing integrated solutions on the ground, the benefits and challenges associated with an integrated approach, and the potential implications for the Global Health Initiative.

Examples from the field

Jane Hutchings, director of PATH’s Reproductive Health Global Program, discussed how PATH is working to integrate HIV programs with family planning services in developing countries. In India, for example, PATH helped place family planning services in antiretroviral therapy clinics, enabling women and men who tap into HIV services to receive information about sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention at the same time. In Nicaragua, PATH has helped integrate health services with microfinancing programs to ensure these services are more readily accessible to the people who need them.

Dr. Goldy Mazia, technical advisor for newborn health, spoke about how PATH integrates HIV/AIDS services and MNCH interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Midwives play an important role in integrating services, she said: in some communities, midwives are the main health care providers for many households. Dr. Mazia also explained that attention needs to be given to strengthening health systems to enable them to provide additional services.

Dr. Altrena Mukuria, senior country program specialist for the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Project—on which PATH is the prime implementer, with partners—also highlighted prevention of mother-to-child transmission, providing examples of programs at antenatal clinics that are funded under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Policies are needed, she said, that encourage collaboration among health agencies to ensure more integration of health services in developing countries.

Participants raised other important points, including the need for men to play a role in maternal and child health messaging and integrated programs, the difficulty of measuring the success of integrated services, how services can be packaged together in a more cost-effective way, and the need for increased training for health care workers and support as their roles are expanded under integrated programs.

Rachel Wilson, PATH’s director of policy and advocacy, moderated the discussion.

About Conversations in Global Health

Conversations in Global Health is an ongoing forum for dialogue with PATH experts and partners on selected global health issues and challenges. For more information on the series, please contact Megan Miller at advocacy@path.org.

More information

Posted August 16, 2010.