In the last five years, maternal health has begun to take a front seat within the larger global health agenda, but when it comes to a neutral space for broader focusing and prioritizing efforts there is still a void. In 2008 the Gates Foundation created the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) in an effort to fill that void. In this interview with ECSP, former MHTF Director Ann Blanc discusses how collaboration with the Wilson Center and the United Nations Population Fund has created an ideal space for addressing the technical, programmatic, and policy sides of neglected maternal health issues.
“Part of our mandate,” Blanc noted, “is to bring in the perspective of what we call ‘allied fields.’” The Wilson Center’s Advancing Policy Dialogue to Improve Maternal Health series focuses on engaging with neglected and emerging topics and experts, finding connections and encouraging partnerships with other fields, such as those working in water, sanitation, or HIV/AIDS services.
For instance, a two-day conference last year with private meetings and public dialogues focused on the neglected issue of transportation for women seeking maternal health services. The conference brought together non-traditional actors, including transportation engineers and mobile technology experts, to identify common barriers mothers commonly face like lack of infrastructure, poor security, or limited access to emergency communications.
“We’re constantly trying to push those barriers and look for interconnections between different development sectors and maternal health,” Blanc concluded.