I attended the Medical Women’s International Association’s 28 Congress in Munster, Germany, July 29- August 1, 2010. MWIA was founded in 1919 to promote cooperation among women physicians across the globe and to create opportunities “to meet so as to confer upon questions concerning the health and well-being of humanity.”
The MWIA Congress is held every 3 years. More than 650 women doctors from over 50 countries attended this year with large delegations representing Nigeria (over 100), the Philippines, and South Korea. This Congress’s theme was “Globalisation in Medicine—Challenges and Opportunities.”
I gave a presentation, “Saving Newborn Lives: Evidence from Low-resource Settings” and called on MWIA leadership to endorse the reduction of newborn mortality as a key program priority for this triennium. Specifically, women physicians were asked to sanction Kangaroo Mother Care, KMC, as an important evidence-based intervention to improve the survival of low birth weight and premature newborns. Incoming President, Dr. Afua A. J. Hesse, from Ghana, brought this petition forward to the 14-member MWIA Executive Committee, and it was approved.
Over the next 3 years, MWIA will seek funding and opportunities to educate its members on KMC and train them to be advocates within their respective countries. Many MWIA physicians are MoH leaders or closely connected with top-level health and development stakeholders. It is hoped that this combination of physician commitment and access to power-brokers and policy-makers will accelerate uptake of this life-saving, low-cost intervention.
So, can active involvement of women doctors around the world hasten the realization of MDG 4 by improving newborn survival? Well, MWIA’s motto is “Matris Animo Curant” (They heal with the spirit of a mother). Mobilizing this maternal spirit across the globe can only be seen as a strategic step.
Claudia S. Morrissey, MD, MPH