1,000 Days to Save Millions of Lives

A worldwide 1,000-day countdown begins today and has the potential to accelerate efforts to save and improve millions of lives by the end of 2015. These efforts were born at the start of the new millennium to address major global issues such as poverty, disease, maternal and child mortality, and gender inequality.

As I remember it, much of the fanfare associated with the beginning of the new millennium was focused on Y2K and the prediction that computer-run operating systems across the globe would crash at 12:00:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2000. I wonder how much healthier the world would be today if the energy invested in Y2K hype had been focused instead on developing the Millennium Declaration and the global solidarity it represented, the commitment by 189 countries to improve the health and well-being of their people.

Today, individuals, governments, organizations, and companies are acknowledging the collective progress made over the past 12 and a half years to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We are celebrating improvements, noting areas that have fallen behind, and committing to achieve what we set out to accomplish together at the turn of the new millennium. Momentum 1000 is uniting millions of people around the world in the renewed commitment to save and improve lives in places that are too often overlooked.

In these final 1,000 days, innovation is critical to scale up proven solutions that save and improve lives. The commitment of Johnson & Johnson to advance the MDGs focuses on maternal and child survival and health. While it is encouraging that the number of maternal deaths globally has decreased by 47 percent over the past 20 years, many countries are struggling to achieve their MDG targets. The challenges before them are significant but not insurmountable.

A simple mobile phone offers one innovative solution. With more than one billion women in low- and middle-income countries now owning mobile phones, new and expectant mothers can now get reliable, trusted information that increases the possibility of a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. Delivered via text or voice, these critical, actionable health messages are timed to the expectant mom's stage of pregnancy and include information about what they can expect at each stage, and warning signs of life-threatening complications. Public-private partnerships like the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) are strengthening the capacity of organizations around the world to deliver these phone-based messages to women who need this information, no matter where they live.

Other solutions are driving progress in improving child survival. The World Health Organization estimates that one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia, the inability to breathe immediately after delivery. To address the fact that cost-effective and evidence-based resuscitation skills often are not available to those most in need, the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) Global Development Alliance was formed as a public-private partnership which includes Johnson & Johnson. Helping Babies Breathe saves newborn lives and prevents disabilities by providing healthcare workers in low-resource settings with simple neonatal resuscitation skills.

Last year I witnessed the impact of the HBB program in Malawi, meeting a baby boy in a remote district hospital who had been resuscitated at birth. Happily for this baby's family, the nurse who helped with his delivery had been trained in resuscitation skills and knew exactly what to do when he did not breathe on his own.

Despite major advances in treatment, in some parts of the world, AIDS still claims many lives. There has been a 43 percent decline in the number of children born with HIV since 2003, and the global community has declared a goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by the end of 2015. By supporting innovations that rapidly transition research and evidence into action at the country level, it will be possible to virtually eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive. One such innovation is to place pregnant women living with HIV on a safe regimen of medications called Option B/B+, which protects the babies and keeps their mothers healthy. Nearly half of the 22 countries with the greatest burden of pediatric HIV/AIDS cases have adopted or are moving to adopt this new regimen. Partners such as UNICEF have launched toolkits that provide assessment tools, checklists, and a roadmap to support the planning and implementation of Option B/B+.

These innovations and others across the world demonstrate ways that we can achieve the Millennium Development Goals, but the remaining 1,000 days to the end of 2015 will pass quickly. Please join in raising awareness about the progress around us and the work ahead of us, in the campaign Momentum 1000. Read, blog, tweet, comment, share, or engage in any way you choose to build the momentum. Together, we can use the next 1,000 days to create a safer and healthier world in which families can survive and thrive.

To learn about these innovations and more please join us at 1:30pm as Johnson & Johnson hosts a twitter chat #MDGinnovation for Better Health. Follow at #mdginnovation and #mdgmomentum