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Integrating NCDs into the Women’s Health Agenda

Since 2010, MSH has been an active advocate for the acknowledgement and inclusion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the overarching women’s health agenda. We were happy to partner with Nova Nortis and the NCD Alliance for the 2016 Women Deliver conference to address how the maternal health agenda can and should include NCDs. The three sessions emphasized the value in adopting a common agenda for NCDs and RMNCAH and identified key advocacy strategies and youth engagement techniques to make effectively addressing NCDs a key priority in the movement for women and girls’ equality. Speakers included Florence Guillaume, Former Minister of Public Health & Population, Haiti, Maisha Hutton, Executive Director, Healthy Caribbean Coalition, and Bente Mikkelsen, Head of the Secretariat, Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, WHO.

The first session, Tackling NCDs: The Key to Improving the Health of Women and Girls, explained the public health burden NCDs present for women and girls. Limited access to care, heightened exposure to risk factors, and the sex-specific nature of some NCDs force women and girls to bear the greatest burden of non-communicable diseases. Recognizing that NCDs are the leading cause of death for women globally and kill 18 million women annually, the panel of experts assembled at this session called for the inclusion of NCDs in a comprehensive, life course approach to women and girls’ health.

In light of this call for a more comprehensive approach, the second session centered on joint advocacy strategies to unite the NCD and RMNCAH agendas. Case studies of advocacy initiatives in Brazil, the Caribbean, Uganda, and Rwanda prove that streamlined messaging and joint advocacy can result in the adoption of evidence-based interventions that effectively address NCDs and RMNCAH together. Table discussions led by youth delegates emphasized that an integration of these agendas will ultimately strengthen health systems and promote universal health coverage (UHC).

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

The final session, Engaging Youth for a Healthier Future: The NCD Perspective, called for greater youth advocacy in the NCD space. Several case studies of youth activism were referenced by panelists as a testament to the critical success youth can have in galvanizing support and action with respect to NCDs.

third panel

The third session panelists engage the audience through yes or no questions using paddles. Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH.

Post study tour, Management Sciences for Health continues to advocate for the inclusion of NCDs in the broader women and girls’ agenda through its steering role in the NCD Round Table. It is our hope that by Women Deliver 2019, the NCD and RMNCAH agendas will be integrated and more evidence-based interventions will be devoted to improving women and girls’ health across the life course.

This post was written by Meredith Greene, Summer Policy, Advocacy & Communications Intern with Management Sciences for Health.

Day 1: Briefings, Briefings, and More Briefings

While other conference attendees ventured off to see Copenhagen’s sites, the delegates went on an adventure of their own as they immersed themselves in conversations around women’s and girls’ health and development.

Women Deliver’s Jill Sheffield set the stage for the day with a briefing on Women Deliver’s history and how the conference brings together key players from all sectors (government, non-profit, private, media, grassroots, health practitioners, and more) and all areas affecting women’s and girls’ health and development (reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health; nutrition; education; gender; human rights; and more).

The delegates with Women Deliver's Jill Sheffield and MSH's Jono Quick.

The delegates with Women Deliver’s Jill Sheffield and MSH’s Jono Quick.

Following Jill, MSH President and CEO Jono Quick led a discussion on the global state of women’s and girls’ health and development with USAID’s Lily Kak, the SIAPS Program’s Maheen Malik, and the Mikolo Project’s John Yanulis. As these speakers highlighted how newborn health, family planning, and maternal health needs are met through successful projects and initiatives like Helping Babies Breathe, Mikolo, and SIAPS Program, the delegates gained insight into the current successes and challenges for providing and supporting health services for women and girls around the world.

The day’s conversations then looked towards financing: with the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals last September, the delegates wanted to know about the funding sources for women’s and girls’ development. Thankfully, Amy Boldosser-Boesch from the FCI Program of MSH, USAID/Tanzania’s Ráz Stevenson, and Johnson & Johnson’s Jami Taylor were up to the challenge of covering such a complex topic as they briefed the delegates on the Global Financing Facility, domestic financing, and the role of the private sector.

IntraHealth International’s Pape Gaye led the day’s final briefing on the impact of country ownership with Haiti’s Former Minister of Health Dr. Florence Duperval Guillaume, the FCI Program of MSH’s Melissa Wanda Kirowo, and the United Nations Foundation’s Daniela Ligiero. As these speakers stressed the importance of coordination, trust, and a level playing field between all parties – from donors to the local level – the delegates learned that the future and success of international development lies in strong country leadership, common objectives, and good governance and accountability.

After a whirlwind day of briefings, the delegates are now ready for the main event: the 2016 Women Deliver Conference.


Welcome and About the Tour

Before our study tour kicks off in Copenhagen, Denmark, we wanted to say a few words about why we’re going to Women Deliver, why these tours matter, and our plans for the future.

This study tour is a bit different from our usual ones – we typically bring congressional staffers, or delegates, to the “field” to visit clinics and meet with local government officials. However, this time, we are attending the Women Deliver 2016 conference. Women Deliver is the world’s largest global convening that focuses on the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. The conference brings together thousands of policymakers, donors, activists, and more, to review progress, discuss challenges, and push for new and ambitious commitments toward improving the lives of girls and women. The conference offers our delegates a unique opportunity to learn the latest happenings in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH) and engage with thought leaders from the highest levels to the grassroots.

Our study tour not only aims to provide a comprehensive RMNCAH education but will enhance the delegates’ storytelling skills. They will leave Copenhagen with the ability to tell stories about the impact of reducing maternal mortality on women, families, communities, and local economies. They will return to Washington better equipped to tell the stories of women and girls around the world to target audiences.

The delegates have a packed schedule each day. Their tour starts out with three, in-depth RMNCAH briefings to prep them for the conference discussions, meetings, and dinners they will attend throughout the week. They will meet with government, NGO, and private sector leaders from all over the world; project implementers from the field; and US and international journalists and communications staff. Each day, the staffers will partake in discussions on topics such as the role of faith communities, how youth are leading in RMNCAH, and effective communication strategies.

Learning tours like this one are key for global health advocacy: they educate and engage Congress on global health issues and provide staffers with the opportunity to connect with thought leaders and tell the story of international development successes.