Bhutan continues to strive for improved mother and child health
Bhutan has always considered the health of its mothers and children as a top priority. The country has made remarkable progress in improving the health and well-being of mothers and children over the past decades. However, there is still much to be done and the government, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office for Bhutan, is working to address issues related to maternal and child health (MCH) and cervical cancer elimination initiatives to further enhance the health of mothers and children in the country.
The public health definition, as given by John M Last, is “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through organized efforts of society.” Public health is concerned with health equity and the determinants of health and uses epidemiology and biostatistics as tools. Health, on the other hand, is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, child birth, and the postnatal period and includes family planning and preconception care.
The mother is considered the source of life, love, and compassion. A healthy mother leads to a healthy child, and maternal health is crucial for the survival, growth, and development of the child.
According to Doctor Lobzang Dorji, National Professional officer at WHO, Bhutan, maternal death is defined as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”
He also said that maternal death reflects poorly on government leadership and health systems, material and emotional burdens to the family, and orphans who suffer long-term consequences.
Meanwhile, globally, in 2020, five million children died before they reached their fifth birthday, while an estimated 295,000 women died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Additionally about two million babies are stillborn every year.
In Bhutan, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 89 per 100,000 live births, the infant mortality rate is 15.1 per 1000 live births, and the children under five mortality rate is 34.1 per 1000 live births.
Subsequently, Bhutan has made significant progress in MCH over the years, following major strategic directions such as the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health 2010, and the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), which include the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030).
Additionally an official from the ministry said that the vision of the Global Strategy is to achieve a world in which every woman, child, and adolescent in every setting realizes their rights to physical and mental health and well-being, has social and economic opportunities, and is able to participate fully in shaping prosperous and sustainable societies.
The objectives of the Global Strategy are to survive-end preventable deaths, thrive-ensure health and well-being, and transform-expand enabling environments.
To achieve these objectives, Bhutan, with the help of WHO and the Country Office for Bhutan, aims to reduce maternal mortality, reduce newborn mortality, reduce under-five mortality, end epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical disease, reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases, and end all forms of malnutrition.
The country also seeks to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, provide all children access to good-quality early childhood development, reduce pollution-related deaths and illnesses, achieve universal health coverage, eradicate extreme poverty, eliminate all harmful and discriminatory practices and violence against women and girls, achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water.
Tshering Pelden from Thimphu