Women, Newborns and Health: Today's Evidence, Tomorrow's Post-2015 Agenda

In 2015, our way forward is to empower women to ensure they get the health care they need and deserve.
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2015! The year of the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global commitment we made to improve the lives of those most in need.

The global research and policy community has been gathering the evidence and the lessons learnt on what has worked for whom and how. As a result, the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group has identified 17 new goals that cover far-reaching sustainable development issues, such as ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

In December 2014, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon published his Synthesis Report: The Road to Dignity by 2030 to guide the way forward for the post-2015 agenda, #action2015. Targets include reducing maternal mortality, ending preventable deaths of newborns and children and ensuring universal access to reproductive health care services.

2014 was an inspiring year for those fighting for women's rights and better access to health and education, with global campaigns such as #HeForShe launched by Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Emma Watson, Orange day (activism against gender-based violence), and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Malala Yousafzai. These activists have called for greater dialogue regarding gender inequity and women's crucial role in sustainable development, a welcome transition that opens minds to the fact that women should be the main decision-makers when it comes to their sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health (SRMNH).

Health workers also made global headlines this year as they were selected by TIME magazine as the 2014 Person Of The Year, specifically the Ebola Fighters who answered the call to work in the crisis areas. Since its founding, ICS Integrare has championed the cause of health care providers as one of the main foundations of a health system's ability to deliver quality health care. In 2013, we led the development of the WHO/Global Health Workforce Alliance 2013 report, A Universal Truth: No Health Without A Workforce, which calls on all governments and interested stakeholders to take "transformative action on human resources for health."

High on the new year's resolution list of the ICS Integrare team is to improve access to high-quality SRMNH care, whether it is family planning or care during pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period, into the early months of a child's life. We have worked hard on that over recent years, together with colleagues at the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the Maternal Health Task Force, the Partnership for Maternal and Newborn and Child Health and the International Confederation of Midwives, to name just a few. In 2014, in the State of the World's Midwifery Report and the Lancet series on Midwifery, we made the case for the importance of how to deliver this care -- ensuring that it's available, accessible, acceptable and of high quality, and by whom it should be delivered. Both the report and the series stress the need for fully skilled and competent midwives who can deliver the continuum of care as part of a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals, supported by a fully enabled SRMNH environment.

In 2015, our way forward is to empower women to ensure they get the health care they need and deserve. We will do this by launching a new set of workforce and health system planning and implementation tools: the SRMNH Workforce Assessment Handbook, which helps countries identify the workforce they need to cover population needs for SRMNH services; and the Midwifery Services Framework, which helps them set up or strengthen midwifery services. These two documents gather all the resources needed to demystify the evidence, explain the numbers, and so empower advocates, policymakers and planners to provide women and their families with high-quality, evidence-based health services -- and provide the health workforce with the tools they need to deliver high-quality care:

"Millions of people, especially women and children, have been left behind in the unfinished work of the MDGs. We must ensure women, youth and children have access to the full range of health services." - Ban Ki-moon, 2014

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