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Addressing Maternal Health in Europe Takes All of Us

By Jacqueline Bowman - Busato, Policy Lead, the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality

November 16, 2016

Globally, Europe's healthcare model is often viewed positively, perceived to be streamlined and highlighted as an example of what "good" looks like.

But our reality is very complicated – in the European Union alone, there are 27 different healthcare systems. Picture a decentralized healthcare system coupled with free movement across borders, and you'll understand our unique problem. Furthermore, women seeking quality maternal care often don't receive it because they get lost when navigating the healthcare system, resulting in poor maternal health outcomes and inequitable access to quality maternal care.

To address this challenge head-on, the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality was formed in 2015. The Alliance convenes a core group of partners from the European Union, the private sector, and civil society, as well as policy makers and healthcare professionals, to raise awareness about the state of maternal health so that it is permanently placed on the map.

Since formation, the Alliance has brought awareness and more importantly action to improving the quality of maternal care and increasing access for women across Europe, especially for those who are poor, migrants, or from minority ethnic groups, through a unique combination of policy and practice.

Maternal health is a multi-stakeholder issue

Ultimately, maternal health is an intersectional issue. As such, it requires a multi-sectoral response –engaging a myriad of stakeholders is critical to addressing poor maternal health outcomes and moving the needle. For this reason, the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality is unique: it brings to the table a plethora of stakeholders, ensuring everyone has an equal voice and equal say.

Working with different stakeholders truly means taking small steps together so that we can achieve even greater goals. Through this approach, the Alliance has successfully:

  • Launched a declaration on universal access to maternal health at the European Parliament, which received the support of 174 Members of European Parliament (MEP) from all political groups and variety of nationalities;
  • Published a Charter on Achieving Universal Access to Maternal Health in Europe, with the goal of receiving endorsements from MEPs, policy makers and other organisations; and
  • Convened a high-level roundtable discussion at this year's Women Deliver conference with two of our members (the European Parliamentarians Forum on Population & Development and the International Planned Parenthood Federation-EN), engaging members of national parliament on the issue of access to maternal health and sexual and reproductive health rights

Additionally Members of European Parliament from six different political groups publicly announced their support for the European Parliament Declaration and the Alliance, calling for a stronger commitment to improving maternal health in Europe.

We also hosted a session at the European Health Forum Gastein with MSD for Mothers (known as Merck for Mothers in the United States and Canada) to validate a matrix of issues related to maternal healthcare (e.g. timeliness, accessibility, equitability, and resiliency) and demonstrate why and how maternal health should be incorporated into a broader, more holistic picture of quality healthcare. True to the Alliance's commitment to cross-sector collaboration, the session incorporated feedback and solutions from all the stakeholders in attendance.

Our vision for the future

Maternal health is a very complex issue that requires a complex, multi-level, multi-stakeholder response. Together with our partners at MSD for Mothers, as well as with our current and future members, we believe that everyone has a role to play to make sure women and girls have equitable access to quality maternal healthcare, and we must continue to work together to make this a reality throughout Europe and across the globe.

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Jacqueline Bowman Busato, Policy Lead, the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality

Jacqueline Bowman-Busato is the Policy Lead for the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality. She has over 15 years' experience in the public and private sectors, and association management on an international level, specializing in multi- stakeholder engagement, particularly in the fields of public health and healthcare IT. In July 2010, Jacqueline took over as Executive Director of EPPOSI (European Platform for Patients' Organizations, Science and Industry) to drive its new strategic focus on EU health innovation policy.

Previously, she was Communications Director Europe, Middle East and Africa for the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and Communications Director for The World of Health IT Conference & Exhibition 2006 & 2007. She has also been Communications Advisor to a number of public health organizations as well as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Jacqueline is a Guyanese- (South America) born, British national. She holds degrees in English and French Law, Integrated Communications Management and graduated from the Vlerick Leuven-Ghent Management School in Belgium with a Master of Business Administration (MBA).