Working Together Towards the Improvement of Maternal Health
In 2015, the United Nations developed a new universal agenda for achieving global prosperity by 2030, entitled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages is one of these goals, with reducing the global maternal mortality ratio as one of its targets. Because of the lack of resources and continuing inequalities within some developing countries, they carry most of the global burden of maternal mortality.
Participants visited the “Clinic of Japan Family Planning Association” (JFPA) in Ichigaya, where they received a lecture from Ms. Sugimura, Office Manager of JFPA, on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and the youth-friendly services provided at the center, and went on a tour of the facility.
As one of Japan’s leading international non-profit organizations for sexual and reproductive health/rights (SRH/R), JOICFP works tirelessly to provide assistance to these countries. As an implementing partner of JICA, JOICFP organizes international trainings on SRH/R issues, such as their “Workshop on the Improvement of Maternal Health,” held between May 18th and June 11th of this year. This training was developed to assist participants in capacity building towards the improvement of maternal health within their own countries. This training was open to 14 participants from government organizations (GOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) who are directly engaged in maternal and child health (MCH) programs, such as doctors, midwives, and health administrators, and included participants from 7 countries: Afghanistan, Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Tajikistan.
After learning about comprehensive community based health care systems and the prefecture of Shizuoka’s health strategy on their trip to Kakegawa city, participants summarized key learning points together in small groups.
Through various lectures on MCH policies, global movements on MCH, health promotion, client-friendly services, youth-friendly services, and other similar topics by JOICFP staff, healthcare workers, and influential professionals in the field, participants learned about Japan’s healthcare system. Participants were amazed at how well different levels of the healthcare system (e.g. the local healthcare clinics, government agencies, private sector, etc) work together with communities to provide high-quality services to mothers and their children. Additionally, participants were fond of how the healthcare system focused on not only the prevention of illness and disease, but also the promotion of both mother and child’s well-being through ensuring “Continuum of Care” for all at the community level.
Participants examine sample foods that are used for weaning infants during a “Three-month old health checkup” session.
However, learning does not only take place in the classroom, but outside the classroom as well. This is why this training included field trips to various cities and towns of Shizuoka Prefecture, and site visits to health/medical care facilities and community level actions. All participants referenced these experiences as both memorable and valuable. Participants saw first-hand the organization and delivery of healthcare services, public policy in action, leadership at all levels, and the balancing of health care supply and demand. Furthermore, participants witnessed Japan’s holistic approach to MCH, which includes access to high-quality clinical care, counseling, interactive parenting classes, youth-friendly SRH/R services (including peer activities), licensed midwives, and more. Dr.Vimonlath, a clinical obstetrician from Laos, stated that this was the first time she learned about healthcare services beyond clinical services.
Participants also engaged with various healthcare workers, who they praised for being dedicated, respectful, professional, and client-friendly approach. Moreover, there are enough the healthcare workers in Japan to keep up with demand, unlike the challenge Dr. Sitat faces everyday in Kenya, where there are not enough medical personnel to meet the needs of the population.
Instructor allowing participants to experience first-hand what physical therapy is like at the Shizuoka Institute of Health.
Participants not only took these insights and more back home with them at the conclusion of the training, but also innovative ideas for implementing new strategies in their countries. Dr. Sitat plans to development educational classes for expectant parents and address healthcare policy. Dr.Vimonlath will make antenatal and postnatal care more client-friendly. Ms. Najiba, a midwife from Afghanistan, is working on developing a MCH handbook, based on the Japanese model, made to be accessible to pregnant mothers who may not be health literate. Mr. Sidua, whose work focuses on increasing access to healthcare services in rural communities in Ghana, will use his new knowledge about community collaboration to increase maternal health in rural areas.
Each participants developed an action plan for the improvement of maternal health in their home country, and received constructive feedback and positive support from their fellow participants.
JOICFP has hosted similar trainings over the years since its foundation. With JOICFP’s many other capacity-building activities, and the dedicated efforts through partnerships with other GOs and NGOs throughout the world, the 2030 goals can be reached. However, whether or not these goals are achieved, it is clear that these efforts will benefit thousands of women and children to come.
（Writer: Alifa Watkins）