Measurement Matters: Saving Mothers' Lives #GOALKEEPERS17

Measurement Matters: Saving Mothers' Lives   #GOALKEEPERS17



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www.globalgoals.org/globalgoals/datareport

Knowledge is power. How data saves mother's lives. In the middle of the 19th century, something
strange was going on in the world’s largest maternity hospital in Vienna: In the first
wing, in which medical students were taught, every tenth mother died of childbed fever. Back then this infection was the most common
cause of deaths for mothers. But in the second wing, in which midwives
were taught, only one in 25 mothers died of the disease. How could this be? The young doctor Ignaz Semmelweis had a suspicion: the two wings must be doing something fundamentally different. He noticed that in the first wing, the medical
students took turns helping to give birth and attending autopsies of women who had died
of childbed fever. Students and doctors worked in daytime clothes
instead of clean lab coats and went straight from autopsy to delivery without washing their
hands. The midwives did only one thing: deliver babies. It was years before the role of bacteria in
diseases was known. But Semmelweis had just discovered that childbed
fever was contagious and the doctors themselves were transmitting the disease. He also found out that the cause of the disease
could be destroyed through chemicals and encouraged the use of disinfection. The result: the number of deaths in the medical
students’ wing dropped by two thirds. Over 20 years went by before hygiene and antisepsis
became routine practice. But it was discoveries like this that tipped
the scales for maternal mortality: gathering data and making observations, often long before
the bigger picture of the problem was known. Things have improved since: Thanks to Finland’s
extensive population statistics we know that in the 1800s 1 in 100 births led to the death
of the mother. At an average of five children per woman,
that was a lot. Today fewer than 1 in 30.000 births end with
the death of the mother in Finland that is the lowest maternal mortality worldwide. But this progress does not happen automatically:
There are still countries where per birth one in 200 women dies. The difference is that we know now that improvement
is possible, and how to make it happen: by using data to identify solutions that would
be overlooked otherwise. Ethiopia’s health worker program for example
decreased child mortality, but still too many mothers died in birth. However, the data they collected showed a
connection between maternal deaths and giving birth at home. Ethiopia now focuses on getting more women
to health facilities for delivery and because of that the maternal mortality rate
has declined to less than a third within just one generation. Gathering data means we can learn what works,
whether in Austria more than a century ago or in Ethiopia today. Our records tell us about the progress – and
without them, progress could not have been made. Now it’s on us to make the most of this
knowledge: by funding health, doing research and keeping progress going.

10 thoughts on “Measurement Matters: Saving Mothers' Lives #GOALKEEPERS17

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  2. Where did that idea come from? The thought or concept or idea or importance of hand washing was initiated by Hashem the God of Israel when he gave the commandments to Moses on the mountain. From my understanding no one thought it important before that. Then I'm reminded of the common phrase "cleanliness is next to Godliness" why is that?

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