A Case for Investing in Midwives
The following is a guest blog by Eliza Carlson, RN, our terrific Global Force 2021 Intern!
I am a recent graduate of OHSU’s School of Nursing and have had the opportunity to intern with Global Force for Healing over the last several months. My interest lies in preventative health through community-led models of care and hope to eventually work in global health, so this internship has been a wonderful opportunity to align my interests and gain experience in global health initiatives. Throughout my nursing education I developed a passion for preventative, holistic healthcare. This stemmed from my experiences noticing the tendency of healthcare systems to manage complex health issues with “band aid” fixes, rather than addressing the root cause.
The largest drivers of health outcomes can be traced back to the social determinants of health, and overlooking these issues has major impacts downstream. I was drawn to Global Force for Healing as an organization because of the value it places on local capacity building. Shifting towards models of care that empower communities and address relevant issues for its members ensures more holistic, person-centered care that results in sustainable solutions.
In my time working with partners of Global Force for Healing, I have learned the importance and value of investing in midwives. Midwives play an instrumental role in ensuring women receive access to skilled care during pregnancy, birth, and the critical period after birth, promoting maternal and child health outcomes and preventing avoidable deaths. A recent study published in Lancet Global Health led by UNFPA (UN Population Fund), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), estimated the number of deaths that could be averted by 2035, if midwife services were scaled up in the 88 countries that account for the majority of the world's maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths, using a ‘Lives Saved Tool Model.’ Researchers found that with a substantial increase in coverage of midwife-delivered services, an estimated 4.3 million lives could be saved per year, striking findings that highlight the critical role midwives hold (Nove, et al., 2021).
In order to meet this potential, investment in and expansion of existing midwife training programs is paramount, considering international standard midwifery has historically been under-invested in as a result of underlying gender, social, and economic inequities (Renfrew & Malata, 2021). This month, Global Force for Healing started a mini series on social media, highlighting the critical role of training and education of birth-workers in the Compassionate Birth Network. Network partners Hope Foundation (Bangladesh), Luna Maya (Mexico), Maya Midwifery Int’l (Guatemala), Midwives for Haiti, MamaBaby Haiti, and Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Indonesia and the Philippines) offer extensive midwifery training programs. These programs empower women and strengthen communities, capacity building at a local level to improve access to quality care.
Global Force for Healing offers partners support in midwifery training programs through coordinating education on key topics, mini-grants, and sharing best practices and curricula using the midwifery, person-centered model of care. Jane Drichta, executive director of Midwives for Haiti, sums it up beautifully, stating, “One of the best things about being in the network is the chance to learn from each other. We all have different skills and areas of expertise, so the seminars and trainings are always valuable. We also so appreciate GFH’s support for our own internal training programs.”
Investing in midwives means investing in women, children and the future of humanity. Petra ten Hoope-Bender, Technical Advisor for SRH (sexual reproductive health) at UNFPA, Geneva and one of the authors of the Lives Saved Tool modelling study, points out that the benefits of this investment provide a “double return,” saving lives while also sustaining the livelihoods of midwives and the families they serve. Midwives play a crucial role in health outcomes for women and babies. They promote person-centered care and the well-being of mothers and newborns across the care continuum. Global Force for Healing acknowledges their value and celebrates the dedication of its partners to invest in midwifery training.
Nove, A., Friberg, I. K., de Bernis, L., McConville, F., Moran, A. C., Najjemba, M., Ten Hoope-Bender, P, Tracy, S, & Homer, C. (2021). Potential impact of midwives in preventing and reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirths: a Lives Saved Tool Modeling Study.The Lancet. Global health, 9(1), e24–e32.
Renfrew, M.J. & Malata, A.M. (2021). Scaling up care by midwives must now be a global priority. The Lancet. Global health, 9(1), e2-e3.