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Maternal and Child Health

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In the 1980's, the United States increased funding for MCH-related programs. At that time, it was estimated that 17 million children under the age of 5 died every year. The global under-five mortality rate has declined by nearly half (49 per cent) since 1990, dropping from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. The total number of
maternal deaths also decreased globally by 45% from 523,000 in 1990 to 289,000 in 2013.

HHS works to improve the health of women and their children across several organizations.

Nursing and Midwife Education

Developing countries sometimes experience a disparity between what nurses and midwifes are being taught and their national regulatory standards and legislation governing the professions. HHS supports the Africa Health Profession Collaborative with updating legislative frameworks and continuing professional development programs for nurses and midwives in Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius and Seychelles.

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HIV/AIDS: Preventing Mother to Child Transmission and Pediatric AIDS

 HHS provides technical assistance and works to identify best practices for scaling up effective and sustainable pediatric HIV treatment and care programs. PEPFAR countriesbenefit from this work and include Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For information and links see the main HIV/AIDS page. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, PEPFAR supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 14.2 million pregnant women.For 749,313 of the women who tested positive for HIV, PEPFAR provided antiretroviral medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus. Due to PEPFAR support, 95 percent of these babies were born HIV-free (including 240,000 that would otherwise have been infected). Since 2012, over 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women received prevention and treatment services to prevent mother-to-child transmission and improve maternal health.


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Reducing Infant and Child Mortality and Improving Child Health

Birth Defects

According to the World Health Organization, Congenital anomalies (also referred as birth defects) affect an estimated 1 in 33 infants and result in approximately 3.2 million birth defect-related disabilities every year. An estimated 270 000 newborns die during the first 28 days of life every year from congenital anomalies. The majority of these occur in low and middle income countries.

Birth defect trends and risk factors are difficult to monitor because many countries do not have systems that can accurately monitor prevalence birth defects. HHS works with partner organizations to expand monitoring systems and improve laboratory capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researches and tracksbirth defects and coordinates the surveillance and research activities of about 40 member programs of the International Clearing house for Birth Defects Surveillance and ResearchExit Disclaimer. CDC also maintains the International Micronutrient Malnutrition Prevention and Control(IMMPaCt),  working with global partners to contribute skills and resources to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies throughout the world.

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Dengue is a major cause of child mortality in Asia. The Dengue Branchat CDC is located at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is the largest research unit in the world dedicated to finding better ways to diagnose and prevent dengue. Click hereto read more about Dengue. 

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Diarrheal Diseases

Each year diarrhoea kills around 760, 000 children under five. Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. It is both preventable and treatable through safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.In developing countries, diarrheal diseases are also a leading cause of death from infections among persons with HIV. Lack of access to water and sanitation and poor hygiene are responsible for most of these deaths. Poor nutrition is also an important factor in diarrheal disease risk. For more information, see CDC website on Diarrheal Diseases in Less Developed Countriesand USAID's information on controlling diarrheal diseases.

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Vaccine Preventable Diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 1.5 million children under age 5 years continue to die annually from diseases that are preventable via the administration of vaccines, making up approximately 20 percent of overall childhood mortality. Vaccines can prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, the two leading causes of death among children under age 5.  Other immunizations that can improve maternal and child health are tetanus immunization of pregnant women and polio immunization. For more information, see CDC information on Vaccines and Preventable Diseasesand how to prevent pneumonia.

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Reducing Maternal Mortality and Improving Maternal Health

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common female cancer worldwide, accounting for 300,000 deaths per year. The vast majority, of these deaths occurred in developing countries, where HIV prevalence is often high. HHS provides government-to-government technical assistance on cervical cancer prevention policy and program development as well as guidance regarding best practices to monitor and evaluate patients. HHS also contributes as a member of a WHO panel that updates the WHO cervical cancer prevention guide[PDF- 3.46 MB]Exit Disclaimer.

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Reproductive Health

The CDC Division of Reproductive Healthworks globally to promote gender equity, reduce infant mortality, reduce maternal mortality, and control infectious diseases associated with human reproduction. Infant mortality rates are reduced by increasing availability of safe emergency pregnancy care and training doctors and nurses to promote safe breast feeding for HIV infected women and other support and guidance related to pregnancy, delivery, post-partum periods. For more information, see Global Health Initiative Supplemental Guidance on Women, Girls, and Gender Equality Principle.

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Another prominent cause of infant mortality is untreated maternal syphilis, which still accounts for more than 500,000 stillbirths and infant deaths annually despite the fact that these deaths could be prevented through routine detection and treatment of syphilis during antenatal care.The overwhelming majority of these are in countries with limited laboratory capacity for syphilis testing as part of basic pregnancy care. Congenital syphilis, passed from mother to child, can be eliminated through universal screening of pregnant women early in pregnancy, and prompt treatment with at least one injection of penicillin. HHS works with partners such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID and academic partners to study and improve current programs to provide screening and treatment services. For basic information about syphilis, download this CDC fact sheet[PDF- 588 KB].

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Tuberculosis (TB)

According to the World Health Organization, Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. The majority of TB related deaths occur in low and middle income countries affecting mostly women -- in fact, TB is among the top five causes of death in women between the ages of 15 and 44. In 2013, an estimated 550 000 children became ill with TB and 80,000 HIV-negative children died of TB. HHS works with in-country CDC offices, USAID, and other partners to provide collaboration on research projects, and international policy/guidance.  Learn more about TB here

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