Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May 29)—Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, maternal health expert and medical director of Jhpiego, urged his global health colleagues today to harness the power of simple technologies to save the lives of thousands of women worldwide.
Dr. Sanghvi, Jhpiego’s vice president and innovations leader, addressed 3,000 policymakers, healthcare professionals, NGO representatives and corporate leaders during an opening day session of the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Tapped as one of the key speakers during the Presidential session on Women’s Health, Dr. Sanghvi called on conference participants to rally on behalf of women and families and provide them ready access to quality health services.
“Nearly 50% of women in Asia and Africa do not have easy access to any kind of health services,” said Dr. Sanghvi. “It is time for us to fully harness the huge resource available to every nation on earth to take care of women and not just be satisfied by waiting for women to reach facilities.
“We already have simple new technologies that allow more village volunteers to detect diseases such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia, anaemia, diabetes, if we are willing to trust community health workers to provide these [services] door-to-door,” he added. “With better simulation training such as Helping Babies Breath or Helping Mothers Survive, we can take life-saving interventions much closer to where women are having problems.”
The Women’s Health session was a highlight of the 3-day meeting, which drew representatives from 150 countries. Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak helped open the conference at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. He argued for greater investment in the education, health, safety, rights, and financial independence for girls and women because it returns big dividends for women and society alike.
“The evidence from developed and developing nations alike, is clear,” said Mr. Razak. “When our girls and women are educated, when they are healthy, when they are independent, the benefits extend beyond individual freedom to prosper and achieve. Freed from the unnatural constraint of inequality, women can realize their potential as active participants in the community and in the world.”
More than 50 Jhpiego leaders and professionals attended the conference to share their program experiences in a range of countries and showcase Jhpiego’s innovations that are improving women’s health in low-resource settings.
During his remarks, Dr. Sanghvi said, “Many in the developing world make the argument that women are needed as mothers, as wives, as caregivers. Whilst this is true, their value is not simply for what they do for others. Women have individual intrinsic values themselves. Their lives should be saved not just to care for the newborn, but because they should not die.”
Jhpiego sponsored an innovations reception, during which delegates had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Jhpiego alumni and experts and learn more about the innovative solutions and simple technologies pioneered by Jhpiego. Dr. Ricky Lu, Jhpiego’s Director of Reproductive Health and Family Planning, and Senior Reproductive Health Advisor, Dr. Tsigue Pleah, explained Jhpiego’s single visit approach for cervical cancer prevention and treatment, and the Mama-U, a low-cost simulation model for both birthing and postpartum IUD insertion.
Dr. Leslie Mancuso, Jhpiego President and CEO, told the reception crowd, “Jhpiego believes that it is one thing to have a discovery, but it is much more important to have that innovation adopted and utilized. It is only a successful global health innovation if we can ensure it is being used for people who desperately need it.”
She added, “Jhpiego is proud to have been part of the developing global workforce over the last 40 years. A workforce that can use these effective low-cost innovations so they can save mothers lives, so they can save families’ lives, so countries can be stronger, and our world would be better.”