24,000 mothers will lose a child today.

We take access to quality health care for granted. Even if you refuse to pay for private health cover, and complain about the waiting times in the public system, you still have medicare and a qualified doctor is never too far away.  You can also pick up the phone and chat to a qualified nurse about a weird stomach cramp at any hour free of charge or do self-diagnosis via google. Accessible medical assistance does save lives, and not everyone is privy to such a service.

Every year 50 million woman in the developing world give birth with no professional help and 8.8 million children and newborns die from easily preventable or treatable causes. 24,000 mothers mourn the loss of a child each and every day.

If these woman and children had access to health professionals millions of lives would be saved. And then if these trained health professionals had access to technology… well the ripple effects would be remarkable. As discussed in the PSFK Future of Health Report, recent advances in technology could dramatically decrease the barriers to medical advice in less developed markets.

The State of the World’s Mothers Report 2010, ranked 160 countries based on mothers’ and children’s health, educational and economic status. Norway ranked number 1, Australia 2, the U.S. 28 and Afghanistan last.  The differences between Australia and Afghanistan are so severe, they are not even comparable – check out the table below.

Australia Afghanistan
Average years of formal education a woman receives 21 4
Number of children that die before the age of 5 1 in 166 More than 1 in 4
Risk of maternal death 1 in 13,300 1 in 8
Average female life span 84 44

The varying level of access to qualified health professionals corresponds directly to the level of health of woman and children in particular.

Trained health workers are present at pretty much every birth in Australia, in comparison to only 14% of births being attended to in Afghanistan.

Over the last 20 years certain developing countries have shown that through investing in training of female health workers lives are saved. Bangladesh has reduced its under-5 mortality rate by 64% due to tens of thousands of female health workers who have promoted family planning, safe motherhood and essential care for newborns. Nepal has achieved similar reductions in maternal and child mortality as a result of training 50,000 female community health volunteers in rural areas.

The role that technology could play in expanding the network of health workers in developing countries, and strengthening their skills and impact is enormous.  Through ideas such as HealthPal, employing a universal health language and making live videos of health workers– all proposed in response to the PSFK Future of Health Report – the gaping health disparity between countries such as Australia and Afghanistan could begin to be diminished.

Check out the short flick below from Save the Children UK about their campaign to make Africa fit for mothers and children.

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