A Healthy World Starts With Healthy Mothers

The launch of the Global Motherhood partnership between Johnson & Johnson and The Huffington Post offers the opportunity to share my quiet but long-held belief that the world revolves around mothers. Please don't misunderstand -- fathers are critically important and I recognize the role that both parents can and often do have in ensuring that their children are loved, nurtured, fed, clothed and educated, among other things. But as I visit villages, cities, townships, and remote rural areas in low- and middle-resource countries, I am struck by the power of mothers as champions for the health and survival of their children, their families and, by extension, their communities.

In 2000, when the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the specific health and economic needs of women and children came into sharper focus. At the same time, effort required to address these needs seemed, at least to some, overwhelming. But galvanized by these clearly articulated goals, the public and private sectors committed resources, expertise and experience to make concrete progress for some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

In the last decade, because of the work of governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations and corporations, many more women survive childbirth and many more babies and children survive and thrive because they receive better care. But despite progress against the MDGs, significant challenges remain. One-third of all births worldwide still take place without a skilled professional present. This staggering number leads to other consequences: 350,000 women die in childbirth every year, and as many as 100,000 women develop obstetric fistula a year, a debilitating (yet preventable and treatable) childbirth injury. And each day, 1,000 babies are still born with HIV despite the fact that there are proven steps to prevent this from happening.

Building on a legacy of work in maternal and child health, Johnson & Johnson responded to United Nations Secretary General's 2010 call to action to improve maternal and child health by expanding our existing programs and establishing new partnerships. The focus of this work has been to support innovative approaches and to scale up interventions that have demonstrated proven results.

I am touched and inspired by the dedication of the many people and organizations working to bring better health to mothers and children -- including our partners like mothers2mothers, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Tostan. These organizations demonstrate every day how community-based health education, basic health care and counseling, providing a foundation for girls to grow and learn, and training skilled birth attendants make an immediate and profound difference to women and children around the world.

The stories behind the tireless work of these organizations often go untold and this is one of the reasons that The Huffington Post and Johnson & Johnson have collaborated to create this forum focused on global motherhood, a place to share ideas and experiences for improving maternal and child health. By highlighting the health issues facing women around the world, we will all learn more about what is working, why it is working, and how together we can do a better job addressing the most challenging issues. For Johnson & Johnson, this project is an extension of our MDG commitment and our long-standing commitment to women and children.

A healthy world starts with healthy mothers. We hope that the Global Motherhood section will give voice to the people and organizations that are making a difference and inspire others to join in this effort. We invite you to visit this section often to read more about the featured organizations and about how you can become more involved.