“This is not an issue about statistics, but about women,” explained supermodel Christy Turlington Burns after noting that more than 500,000 women die every year from giving birth – making it one of the leading causes of mortality and a pressing global health issue.
I had the privilege of attending the Seattle screening of Burns’ new documentary No woman, No Cry, which focuses on maternal mortality. The film was produced in conjunction with a campaign Every Mother Counts to build awareness about maternal health issues. I couldn’t help but think how such a common procedure, a part of life that has existed since the beginning of mankind, could be so life threatening? And furthermore, why such little attention has been brought forth on this universal issue to date?
The event started with a screening of the film for a crowd of 800 followed by an impressive panel of speakers, including Lisa Cohen, Executive Director of the Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA); Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health in the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chris Elias, President and CEO of PATH; Craig Rubens, Founder and Executive of the Global Alliance for the Prevention of Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS)and Christy Turlington Burns, model, business woman, and producer of the film.
The film follows the emotional tales of women in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the United States. The audience sat in awe watching each woman face physical, financial, religious and infrastructural barriers that complicated and threatened their childbirth. I was saddened to see how the lack of education, resources and cultural limitations left women in the developing world in great danger that was easily preventable. I was shocked how unforgiving our own medical system can be, ostracizing women and leaving a majority at risk from inflated medical prices and a lack of safe alternatives.
As I left that evening, my head was spinning with ideas about ways in which we could improve public health and education as well as research and development, public policy and advocacy in the United States. But all of this boiled down to one thing for me: communication. We have the unique power to communicate and influence change and we need to use it.
Please take a moment to view the trailer below and visit the site to learn how you can take action around this critical issue.