Integrated programming for maternal and child health should be fostered and encouraged where the evidence indicates it can make the greatest impact, Dr. Julie Pulerwitz, leader of PATH’s HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Global Program, said in introducing a panel of global health experts at a US congressional briefing on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
The September 15 briefing drew more than 80 policymakers and members of the global health community, including more than 40 congressional staff members and representatives of US government agencies, to discuss integrated approaches to improve health for mothers and children.
The briefing, sponsored by PATH in conjunction with Women’s Policy Inc., examined ways to integrate services for maternal, newborn, and child health to create efficiencies, increase impact, and help more women and children access the support and services they need. The event was hosted in partnership with seven members of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
Amie Batson, deputy assistant administrator for global health at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), opened the discussion by highlighting the fact that the President’s Global Health Initiative includes coordination and integration as a foundation of its approach. Central to the principle of integration is a focus on the woman, Batson said.
“At the end of the day, a woman is a woman with health needs,” Batson said. “She is not a disease.” Not only does integration allow for that woman’s health needs to be more comprehensively met, Batson pointed out, but from a development perspective integration also offers increased efficiencies and increased effectiveness.
Dr. Catherine Mukuka, counsellor of health at the Permanent Mission of Zambia to the United Nations, spoke of her experience with integration through the lens of nutrition services based on her prior work with the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Project in Zambia—a project funded by USAID and implemented by PATH with partners. Dr. Mukuka identified three areas where integration had achieved impact: at the national government level, between different ministries; at the community level, with the coordination of different community workers such as health care workers and agriculture officers; and at the facility level, where health workers were trained to provide counseling and care for multiple health needs.
Dr. Ambrose Misore, project director of the USAID-funded AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance Program (APHIA) II Western, led by PATH in Kenya, painted a detailed picture of how the integrated model used in Kenya has increased access to services for women and what that means for them. The time it takes women to travel to a clinic adds to the burden of their other responsibilities, Dr. Misore said. To address this, APHIA II has enabled more women to access a “one-stop shop” where they can receive a range of health services critical to their well-being and the well-being of their children.
Dr. Misore emphasized that APHIA II Western’s successes show that integration is possible and can make an impact: Up to 100 percent more HIV-positive women were enrolled in care, more HIV-positive mothers took the important CD4 blood test to determine their eligibility for drug treatment, there was increased access to family planning services, and male involvement in maternal and child health services increased.
US Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, reminded the audience that the United States has a tremendous role to play in ensuring that these health efforts succeed. Success in our endeavors overseas will lead to more peaceful, healthier communities around the world, she said.
In addition to Congresswoman Schakowsky, the briefing was cosponsored by caucus members Judy Biggert (R-IL), Lois Capps (D-CA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Gwen Moore (D-WI).
Posted September 28, 2010.