Let’s begin with a question - why are we discussing maternal and child healthcare? This is because in developing countries like ours, 99% of maternal deaths that occur every year, are all preventable, and despite strong progress in various places of the world, every 11 seconds a pregnant woman or a newborn child dies somewhere. There is no doubt in stating the fact that we do possess the necessary healthcare solutions, the systems for providing healthcare to budding children and pregnant mothers; then where are we lacking in preventing these casualties? The gap that can be observed here is created by the lack of access, and the lack of awareness. We’ll get back to this later, but first let’s dive a little into the healthcare aspect.
Maternal healthcare is not only important for the mother herself, but it does have effects on the newborn child too, as well as many other aspects to take into consideration (effects and causes) - making it a high priority. Now as it is implied here that healthy mothers will bring healthier babies into this world, we need to take proper care of the mother’s nutrition, her sleep, sanitation, etc., when she is pregnant, during birth and after birth. A mother’s nutrition is essential during pre-natal and post-natal period because breastfeeding influences the baby’s physical growth and mental development. If a mother lacks essential nutrients like iodine, folic acid, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega 3, the child would definitely be deficient of them. Deficiency of micronutrients causes adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight babies, so the mother shouldn’t be lacking them of course. Low birth weight in babies can contribute to the vicious cycle of malnutrition since maternal nutrition status especially maternal stature has been reported to be inversely associated with offspring mortality, underweight, and stunting in infancy and childhood. Evidence suggests that malnourished women are at a higher risk of having malnourished children and this creates an intergenerational effect. Newborn babies with low birth weight have greater mortality risk, are more prone to infectious diseases during early postnatal life, and are at a risk for future diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and other chronic illnesses. All of this tells us why maternal health is so important, and why is it important to bridge the aforementioned gap.
Next what comes is child healthcare - it refers to the access of children to proper nutrition, sleep, shelter, safe environment, sanitation, etc. Basically, whatever health conditions the child is living under now, will set the stage for their adult health. If it’s not up to the mark, then they won’t be able to contribute to the development of societies, they won’t be able to develop to their full physical and mental potential. This fact is worth being concerned over. Tackling problems now in child healthcare is more of an investment in the children, so that we can have a secure future with healthy and wealthy adults, there will be no health constraints hanging over their heads, restricting them to achieve whatever they want. Healthcare is one of the aspects for the development of any country in terms of increasing equity and reducing poverty, and it could also help in solving broader social, economic and developmental challenges. Poor maternal and child health will result in causalities concerning the downfall of societal and economic growth in the nation, that we don’t want to face. Therefore, it’s important to strengthen this up.
Moving on, I would like to throw some light on what could be done to bridge the gap of awareness and access. We surely do have a lot of programmes that were prepared for bridging these gaps. Policy is not the issue here or the aspect to be blamed, but the proper implementation is not happening to the required level. Scaling up of the implementation of these policies along with establishment of proper health reporting systems in order to help policy makers as well as the workforce involved in the implementation to pave it in the way the public can benefit more. For checking over the action being taken against these gaps, we can establish a judicious measurement system, which will integrate data in an effective manner, therefore helping us to polish the existing policies and actions.