Maternal Mortality in the US

How can it be that America, a country known for economic growth and leadership, has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized country? More so, in a country pioneering equal rights and diversity, black babies are twice as likely as white babies to die before reaching their first birthday. 
 
Each year approximately half a million women and girls die from pregnancy-related causes globally.  Maternal mortality is a main indicator of health disparities between rich and poor populations.  The gap between rich and poor in the United States continues to widen with the recent economic downturn.  The growing number of US citizens tumbling into poverty (joining the current 36 million) is the force behind these startling statistics on maternal mortality; an issue many thought to be exclusive to the developing world.
 
Recognizing that maternal health is a human right and that complex problems demand innovative solutions, Ashoka partnered with the Maternal Health Task Force to create an international program that searches for young leaders in maternal health, and links them to Ashoka Fellows already working in this issue area. Sixteen young leaders (called Young Champions of Maternal Health) were identified on June 16, 2010. The Young Champions hail from 13 countries, including the US, India, Ethiopia, and Nigeria – countries with high maternal mortality. Each Young Champion will work with an established Ashoka Fellow who will host and mentor them over a 9-month period. At the end of the program, the Young Champions will deliver the resulting products of their work.
 
Ashoka appointed Fellows are also tackling and transforming this issue.  As a public health advisor and African American woman, Kathryn Hall Trujillo experienced first-hand the reality of the maternal health within the poor population and especially within African-American communities.  Her solution? - developing the only national child and maternal health program for African-American women.  The Birthing Project provides general health resources, but the core of the program in one-to-one mentoring where women and midwives coach pregnant women through the pregnancy, birth and the first year of life.   Due to it’s success, The Birthing Project has been replicated in more than 70 communities in the United States, Canada and Honduras. 

This article was originally published on June 24, 2010
Related TopicsBusiness & Social Enterprise, Social enterprise, Health & Fitness, Maternal health, Human Rights & Equality, Human rights

Kelli Payne
Kelli Payne is an Ashoka US Summer Associate

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