MLI Newsletter - August 10th 2011

August 10, 2011

USAID Officials: Support for family planning vital for development

Funding for family planning continues to come under fire in the US Congress. In a House appropriations bill released last month, family planning funding under the Global Health and Child Survival Account was reduced to $461 million from $525 million authorized in 2011. MLI's Leading Global Health blog caught up with two senior reproductive health officials in the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – Ellen H. Starbird, Deputy Director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health and Judy M. Manning, Health Development Officer in the Research, Technology and Utilization Division—to discuss why continued support for family planning is important for developing countries. "Family planning is a really powerful way of opening a lot of other doors and enabling a lot of other development to happen," Starbird said. Supporting family planning can help strengthen a country's health system. According to Starbird, "It does go along with the country ownership movement…It gives the average person much more day-to-day information and interaction with the health sector. It also can help legitimize government services…They can make clear that the health system doesn't stop with a fixed delivery site."

In addition to supporting family planning projects on the ground, Manning said that USAID is also supporting scientific innovations, "A lot of our resources are looking at filling the gap between the three-month injectable and the five-year implants. We hear from many women who would really like a method that was effective for one year." And fulfilling these needs is essential, as Starbird quoted Scott Radloff, Director of USAID's Population and Reproductive Health Office, saying, "What is good for women is good for the world."

Nepal launches Digital Library and holds dialogue on adolescent sexual and reproductive health

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) in Nepal has launched a Digital Library containing a searchable catalogue of over 2,983 copies of documents including key policy documents and government health acts. Nepal has been working over the past 18 months to create this library and HealthNet Nepal, with support from MLI, has designed and now hosts the e-library website. The Ministry's efforts to create the Digital Library, led by the Chief of the Health Sector Reform Unit, Dr. Baburam Marasini, resulted in this significant collection of historic and current health documents that provides easily accessible information to policy makers, donor partners and the general public. The Digital Library is expected to disseminate new knowledge, promote learning and build national consensus on health sector policy options for scaling up health services.

Also at the end of July, MLI supported a two-day national policy dialogue on adolescent friendly health services specifically in the context of sexual and reproductive health and HIV in Kathmandu, Nepal. The workshop was attended by not only policymakers, but also by the adolescents that ASRH decisions affect, including those identified as vulnerable and at-risk. The workshop was facilitated in a manner that allowed adolescents to freely express their views and needs regarding adolescent friendly health and counseling services. It also included presentations by program specialists to share the experience of adolescent friendly health services in other country contexts, along with interactive plenary sessions, presentations, group work, and role-plays. More information, as well as a photo gallery of the dialogue, can be found on the MLI website.

Innovators gather in DC to 'Save lives at Birth'

In an effort to improve maternal and newborn survival in low resource rural areas, USAID and partners, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, invited 77 innovators to Washington, D.C. to compete for seed grants at Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development. The day before the grant winners were announced, innovators displayed their creative projects at booths set up in the Ronald Reagan Building and carefully explained the impact their innovations could have on maternal and child mortality rates in developing countries. Many of the projects on display, including those in MLI countries Mali and Nepal, were done in partnership with the Ministry of Health in their respective country. MLI's Leading Global Health blog was able to ask them why working with the Ministry was an important component to their project. Yacouba Koné of the Aga Khan Foundation, stated that his project, 3M Mobiles for Maternal Health in Mali, is working with Mali's Ministry of Health to plan to scale-up and sustain this project through the Ministry's Essential Health Care at Community Level Policy. Koné said, "We are here for a short time, the government is here forever." Facilitating the project through Ministry channels will also use government resources and political will as fuel for the project.

Innovations such as this one have the potential to lead to health improvements as access to services in Mali is increasing. Over the past year Mali's Ministry of Health, with support from MLI, has been decreasing financial barriers to care through the expansion of community based health insurance and free care initiatives for certain services such as C-sections. With increased access, developing countries can fully take advantage of the technology and innovations seen at the Saving Lives at Birth competition.

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