Why We Need (And Want) Mothers to Speak Up On Behalf of Newborn Health

Photo: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This blog was originally published in Impatient Optimists. Written by Gary Darmstadt, Wendy Prosser, Amie Newman.

Newborn health was the topic of a global conversation last week, as you no doubt know if you’ve been following along on Impatient Optimists. In Johannesburg, South Africa, the very first Global Newborn Health Conference gathered together champions of this issue to discuss how to improve the health and lives of newborns. It’s unsurprising, then, that mothers were (and continue to be) a big part of the conversation. Not only were mothers mentioned frequently, in large part because of the important link between newborn health and that of her mother, but also because mothers were and are instrumental in raising awareness of this important topic.

In the United States, mom bloggers collectively raised their voices on behalf of newborn health. Kristine Brite McCormick, a mother who devastatingly lost her daughter Cora, wrote that she was “giving voice” to the millions of newborns who are dying every year in the poorest countries of the world.

Poignantly, some of these women wrote of their own loss; some shared the pain and frustration they feel for and about women halfway around the world who suffer from the death of a newborn, from preventable causes. This group of dedicated women does a tremendous job of bringing attention, through social media, to the importance of good care during those 28 days after birth in order to have a healthy and productive life for years to come.

Some major themes emerged from their Tweets during the conference:

There is outrage at the burden of newborn mortality and rightly so.

Countries are learning from each other to introduce life-saving interventions. 

The newborn community cannot improve the chances of newborn survival alone; we need broad, catalytic partnerships  looking at the complex system holistically. 

One of the greatest messages we heard through the Mom Bloggers was expressed in this tweet:

This concept extends beyond the participants at the conference and the policy makers in the different countries. This concept encapsulates the Mom Bloggers themselves. Their dedication to saving the lives of newborns, especially in the poorest countries in the world, by raising awareness of the issue through blogging, tweeting, video messages and more is truly amazing.

We were equally as inspired by the videos created. Lisa Van Engen expresses her ideas here:

As we continue to speak up about newborn health, and a Global Newborn Action Plan is developed, we must not only listen to the voices of mothers from around the world but include them.

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