Improving Maternal Health through Education: Safe Motherhood Is a Necessity

By Luthra, Rita | UN Chronicle, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Improving Maternal Health through Education: Safe Motherhood Is a Necessity


Luthra, Rita, UN Chronicle


Education improves health, while health improves learning potential. Education and health complement, enhance and support each other; together, they serve as the foundation for a better world. To be able to read, write and calculate has been acknowledged as a human right. However, more than 100 million children are still deprived of access to primary education and fewer than half of all children worldwide participate in early childhood programmes.

Gender equality, including in education, is a condition for development. Schooling in itself has been a powerful tool to influence health, and its impact is clearly seen in maternal and child health benefits. Literate women tend to marry later and are more likely to use family planning methods. Mothers with primary education tend to take better care of their children and are more likely to seek medical care, such as immunization, than those who lack schooling. The connection between education, health and earning capacity is better understood. Ensuring that our surroundings are conducive to good health means directing efforts at all levels, within and between all sectors of society. In so doing, we can make healthier choices and lay the foundations for true social and economic development.

Every year, 529,000 girls and women die at childbirth. Over 300 million women worldwide suffer from either short- or long-term complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth, with around 20 million new cases every year. Most of these deaths and disabilities are preventable. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are very simple yet powerful, could change the world. The MDGs have become the yardstick for progress among Governments and international organizations, to measure progress, shift budget priorities and institute reforms to improve human development worldwide. The United Nations is mobilizing its resources with partners in an unprecedented manner in support of the MDGs, which set the terms of a globalization driven not by the interests of the strong, but managed in the interests of the poor. These Goals are attainable, provided countries of the North and the South work together. "Health for All" and "Education for All" are expressions of the UN commitment to health and education.

The healthy future of society depends on the health of today's children and their mothers, who are guardians of that future. Because the MDGs are inseparably linked, they must be achieved concurrently. Poor diet impairs learning and development. Young people need to be healthy in order to attend school regularly and take advantage of the opportunities provided by schools. Global partnership in women's health care is therefore a necessity, not a luxury. Unwanted and teen pregnancies are challenging issues for both industrialized and developing countries. Risks in every pregnancy and childbirth exist, and lifetime risks depend on how many times a woman gets pregnant. In addition, an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy may take place at the wrong time. From a health and social point of view, it may occur at the least optimal period for the mother and child.

Health-promoting schools. If we consider what it takes to create health, the school becomes an ideal setting for action. Schools can help young people acquire the basic skills needed to create health. These so-called life skills include decision-making, problem-solving, critical-thinking, communication, self-assessment and coping strategies. People with such skills are more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Each new generation of children faces health challenges, but those being dealt with by today's youth seem particularly daunting. Children at an early age are confronted by situations that require decision-making skills for preventive action.

Adolescents find themselves under strong peer pressure to engage in highly risky behaviour, which can have serious implications on their lives. The spread of HIV/AIDS among adolescents is a more recent but growing phenomenon, while the traditional problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continues to increase.

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Improving Maternal Health through Education: Safe Motherhood Is a Necessity
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