Taking the Lead on Women’s Public Health

  • Posted on May 16, 2014 at 12:23

Picture a young woman in a remote village in rural Africa. It sits in the midst of far reaching grasslands. She cannot read or write. There is no school, no running water and she’s far too young to be caring for her three small children, all under the age of five. But there she is.

Now imagine she learns about contraception — from a midwife or from a woman in her village. She thinks that maybe this would be a good option; she can barely care for the children that she has and so she decides, for now, to not have any more. She decides that she wants contraception.

She walks for miles to the nearest clinic. When she arrives, she waits in line, gets her pills and takes them home. But what happens if she gets home and realizes that they are fake sugar pills? Or what if they are in fact real, but she can’t make it back to the clinic when her supply runs out? What if the clinic runs out of its stock?

What happens is another unwanted or unintended pregnancy and a heavier burden to meet basic needs like buying food and clothing for her children. There are more than 200 million women around the world whose stories mirror this challenging journey — women who want to avoid pregnancy, but lack access to contraceptives.

Go where the supply chain has stopped

Recently, I was honored to give the keynote address at the 2014 Women in Leadership Conference at the Harvard School of Public Health. The event brought together hundreds of healthcare professionals, scholars and students to discuss where we are as a global community in providing access to affordable health care, and where we are falling short. As the CEO of an international healthcare nonprofit, my focus is on how to expand sustainable, uninterrupted access to high quality healthcare everywhere, for everyone.

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