Pour yourself another cup. Sit down. And buckle up. This could be the most important thing you read all day.
As I sat on the high speed Acela train taking me home from the Social Good Summit in New York City, the lights of hospitals like The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore off in the distance reminded me that I was born into a life of privilege. In fact, regardless of our socio-economic status, living in the United States is a privilege simply because we have a choice about so many things that those in other countries do not.
We have the ability to decide whether we’re ready to start a family or not thanks to availability of contraceptives. When they’re born we can make a choice about whether or not to vaccinate our children because of community or herd immunity that exists in the population that can help keep unvaccinated kids healthy. When our kids get sick, we have health care that is easily accessible regardless of if we have health care or not. When our babies were born, we could choose whether we wanted to deliver them in a hospital with the help of an OB/GYN or use the assistance of a doula or midwife in a home birth. If you’re like me, you probably never had to wonder if your child would celebrate their first birthday because it was always just assumed that they would develop normally and be healthy.
Imagine not wanting to get pregnant but having no choice because the contraceptives you want aren’t available. Envision giving birth to your child on a dirt floor without the available of sterile instruments or medical supplies where a misdelivered placenta might cause postpartum hemorrhage and bleed to death. Or imagine that your baby was born and suffocated because no one could suck the mucus from their nose and mouth quickly enough due to lack of adequate tools. And maybe you and your newborn lived through the miracle that is labor and delivery in a developing country but the only information about raising your new infant came from others in your village who passed down knowledge and misinformation. From the information that was handed down to you, you believed that when your child spiked a fever, it was because of a divine power and didn’t seek medical attention in time. Once they were really sick, traveling to the nearest hospital from your rural home was far away but something you did just a little too late to save your baby. And this baby? It’s your fifth and you’re not quite 30. And quite possibly you’ve had other babies beyond your 5 who haven’t lived to see their first birthday.
All of these are real scenarios that made me pause while attending the Social Good Summit as a Social Good Fellow for the United Nations Foundation. The collective stories I heard during the two days I attended the Summit made me feel incredibly fortunate but also drove me to want to do something to help.
How can you not help upon realizing that:
- 800 women who don’t survive pregnancy or childbirth each and every day
- 2 out of 5 child deaths occur in the first month of life
- 220 million women in developing countries want access to contraceptives and family planning but can’t get them
While I’m fretting about how to pick up organic milk at the store in between shuttling my kids from one after school activity to another, children are dying. Mothers are dying. I know it seems overly dramatic but our first world problems truly are just that. Luckily living in the first world gives us the power to help.
It’s no wonder that the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include key benchmarks benefitting maternal health. We can help prevent 70% of the maternal deaths and 44% of newborn deaths. We can ensure that kids live to their first birthday and beyond.
I came home from the Social Good Summit, empowered with knowledge, a passion to do more, and a commitment to teach you how to get involved in issues that matter.
While we can’t solve the world’s problems or meet the MDGs in a day, here’s what we can do starting now.
Learn about the MDGs
Knowledge is power. Learning about the MDGs and the ways in which partnerships between independent citizen organizations (often referred to as non-governmental organizations or NGOs) are making strides in maternal health around the world is the first step to getting involved.
Choose a cause.
There are many causes that seek to help meet the various MDGs on maternal health. These are just a couple worth knowing about.
Shot@Life— Shot@Life educates, connects, and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. One child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine. 1.5 million kids die every year. Pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio are just some of the vaccine-preventable diseases that disable or kill children every year. 1 in 5 lack the access to life-saving immunizations that keep children in the United States healthy.
WTFP?!—The eye-catching acronym stands for Where’s the Family Planning. WTFP is an initiative that aims to meet the need for contraceptives and family planning to prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 79,000 maternal deaths, and 1.1 million infant deaths. Investing in family planning ultimately saves lives and empowers women by giving them a choice- a choice that they so desperately want but can’t get them. EngenderHealth, the leading global women’s health organization, is working to train doctors and nurses so women in the poorest countries around the world can plan their pregnancies, have safer childbirths, and achieve their dreams.
One.org— With members located in 187 countries around the world and from all walks of life, this international campaigning and advocacy organization of nearly 6 million people taking serves as a way to add your voice to the movement to end extreme poverty and preventable disease in Africa. When extreme poverty ends, survival rates of mothers and children increase. Facts show extreme poverty has been cut in half and can be virtually eliminated by 2030 if we act with urgency. Co-founded by U2’s Bono, members and campaigners work to persuade governments to support effective programs and policies like providing access to lifesaving AIDS medication and preventing malaria. To date, more 9 million people in Africa today have access to AIDS medication, a huge increase from the 50,000 in 2002. 51 million more children across sub-Saharan Africa are now going to primary school thanks to a 75% reduction in malaria in eight African countries since 2000.
Support corporate partners who are making maternal health MDGs a priority
Since it’s the time of the year that we parents start thinking of flu shots, why not take the simple action of getting your flu shot and giving someone else a shot at the same time. When you get your flu shot, or any other immunization at Walgreens, your action is helping to provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in a developing country through Shot@Life through their Get a Shot. Give a Shot. campaign.
Take action by spreading the word and involving your children
Maybe your children are too young to take action themselves but simple age-appropriate things such as having a conversation about how you support causes you care about makes a huge difference as we raise a new generation of change agents. You never know where those conversations will lead. Perhaps they’ll lead to championing one of the causes you care about or another one that’s near and dear to their hearts. Perhaps it will lead them to advocate on behalf of others in the lunchroom at school or on Capitol Hill. Who knows how the seeds you plant will grow but they can’t if they’re not there. For advice on getting your kids involved in causes, read my post: #Blogust: Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter as She Fundraises to Support Her First Cause that contains 5 simple things you can do starting today. By the way, that particular post contributed 626 vaccines to the 60,000 that were donated by Walgreens during Blogust 2014! Thank you!
Even on our worst days, we live a life of privilege by being born in the United States. Advocacy isn’t always about money. It’s about having a voice and using it in any way you can to make a difference. Starting now.
As a participant in Blogust 2014, I was invited to attend the Social Good Summit as a Social Good Fellow. Travel, lodging, and associated costs were covered as part of my fellowship but all opinions are my own and I was not required to write this post. Statistics and images are courtesy of Shot@Life, WTFP?!, and the United Nations.