In order to reduce maternal health risks several complex systems must change simultaneously. Individual health risks must be properly identified, consistent and appropriate treatment options must be available, and cultural expectations must be adjusted to create an environment that is conducive to reducing maternal health risks.
While maternal health risks are different from breast cancer risks the process that breast cancer advocacy had to go through before it was able to make a difference in the lives of those affected is very similar.
In the 1970s breast cancer was highly stigmatized and considered a private affair. This prevented women (primarily) from being able to seek the resources they needed to address the problems and it severely limited the number of resources dedicated towards addressing breast cancer risks. As advocacy organizations pushed to move the discussion of breast cancer into the public sphere several important changes happened. Those affected by breast cancer were no longer isolated in private. Their voices could be united and become stronger. These united voices formed the beginning of a national debate on where resources should be committed for research and the level of advocacy the government could contribute to address the problem. For instance, breast cancer research has identified several environmental toxins that could be better regulated/eliminated in order to reduce the overall breast cancer rate. Further by bringing the breast cancer discussion into the public sphere an important psychological healing could also take place12.
There are many similarities between breast cancer and reducing maternal health risk.
Currently there are far too few resources dedicated to addressing maternal health risks. This is in large part because these risks continue to be seen as private affairs even though the vast majority of risks remain far outside the control of the individual. Money alone will not solve the crisis of increasing maternal health risk. In order to effectively address maternal health risk and get back on track reducing maternal mortality we must begin to shift this discussion into the public sphere.
One of the principle goals of the Mother’s Monument is to help shift the debate on maternal health risk from the private to the public sphere. Once we begin an honest debate on the risk and what can be done about them we will begin to dedicate the appropriate resources necessary to eliminate these unavoidable deaths. And that is the positive news. Countries that moved the debate public have seen dramatic reductions in their maternal mortality rate. Public awareness led to actions that had a direct impact on the lives and health of these women and their families.
Help us achieve greater visibility for maternal mortality. Share these stories and please donate and help us build the first international memorial to honor women who have died due to complications arising out of childbirth. We all really can make a difference.