Health Research Program
Theresa Shaver, Senior Maternal Health Advisor
Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition, USAID

Congratulations to all involved in the 4th Global Midwifery Symposium that took place in Vancouver on June 2, 2019. Our gatherings were hosted from June 2-6 at Women Deliver 2019, the largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women. There were 185 events and 82,000 individuals in attendance, 80% of whom were first-time participants, many representing the next generation of leaders. The five-day program included a wide variety of outlets for learning and sharing – from keynotes and social enterprise pitches to workshops and film festivals – there were countless opportunities to reflect on building a more gender equal world.

The importance of investing in midwifery education and regulation, as well as the need to create enabling environments for professional midwives, was discussed. On the first inspiring day, entitled Empowered Midwives – Transformed Communities, a call to action was launched, the Framework for Action Strengthening Quality Midwifery Education for Universal Health Coverage, with a goal date set for 2030.

The following day, USAID was honored to participate in a panel review of the previous day’s symposium.  I served as a panelist alongside Anshu Banerjee, Senior Advisor for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Reproductive Health and Research, and Dr. France Donnay, a global consultant. The dynamic and interactive gathering, Women at the Center of Maternal Health, focused on person-centered care for maternal health and included presentations from Jhpiego, WHO, and universities who provided examples of measurements integrated into existing efforts to achieve this goal.

White Ribbon Alliance’s What Women Want panel included Aparajita Gogoi, Angela Nguku, and Dr. Samina Naeem Khalid.
Photo Credit: White Ribbon Alliance

White Ribbon Alliance’s (WRA) report on their global campaign, What Women Want, that queried 1.2 million women representing 114 countries offered further confirmation of the need for person-centered care.  Women’s requests were analyzed and evaluated by a core group of reproductive and maternal health professionals with help from a professional data engineer who used Google’s pre-trained BERT model and fine-tuned it as a text classifier.  The data revealed that women want respectful reproductive and maternity care in clean, well-stocked facilities.

Understanding the importance of person-centered care and incorporating it into new and existing projects is an excellent way to implement the lessons learned from the Women Deliver 2019 Conference into real-world results. USAID works to advance quality and respectful maternity care for women and families by enabling and mobilizing individuals and communities in the countries we work. Using implementation research approaches, such as the Human Evaluation and Applied Research (HEARD) Project, and through the Implementation Science Collaborative, USAID supports research-to-use activities that advance respectful maternity care around the world. Additionally, the USAID Health Research Program’s Care-Seeking & Referral Broad Agency Announcement awardees are incorporating aspects of respectful maternity care in their projects.

When announcing the location of this year’s conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose to speak in front of the Women are Persons! monument on the grounds of Parliament Hill in Ottawa and said, “Prioritizing the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women is not optional, but in fact, foundational to drive change and progress for all.” I thank the Prime Minister for his words and give special thanks to conference organizers and sponsors for their global leadership. New friendships were developed, programmatic approaches across countries shared, and hope generated to advance the strategic development goals for 2030.