Significant progress has been made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals over the past 15 years. That progress has, however, been uneven, and MDGs three and four, aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality, remain furthest off target.
Addressing the socio-economic determinants of health
Maternal and child mortality is mostly preventable, and concentrated in socio-economically disadvantaged populations. Unsafe sex for women, for example, depends not only access to and availability of contraceptives, but also on women’s ability to negotiate safe sex. Similarly, access to optimal nutrition often hinges on a redistribution of resources within the household and women`s power to make spending decisions. Stigma and discrimination of marginalized populations, likewise, drive the vulnerabilities that can cause diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria.
Evidence-based interventions can prevent maternal and child deaths and improve the health and well-being of women and children. Successfully addressing the socio-economic determinants of these challenges requires focusing on the rights of women, men, boys and girls. Only a rights-based approach to health and gender will allow us to reach our objectives.
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The following recommendations are aimed at strengthening the structures, capacities, policies and financing that will allow the Government of Canada to establish an equitable, participatory and rights-based global health policy:
- The Government of Canada should support participatory health policy design and delivery by expanding financial and technical support for women- and youth-led groups at local and national level.
- The Government of Canada should support reproductive health services that are commensurate with impact groups’ needs, and based on evidence about what makes health policies and programs accessible, effective and durable.
- The Government of Canada should leverage its diplomatic resources to champion sexual and reproductive rights worldwide.
- The Government of Canada should adopt global health policies and programs that treat the health needs of all people equitably, using a rights-based approach.
- The Government of Canada should adopt a whole-of-government strategy for ensuring policy coherence and the coordination of investments in the promotion of women and children’s rights and health, both in Canada and internationally.
- The Government of Canada should work with development actors and donors to help improve the quality of primary healthcare systems according to the World Health Organization’s six health system building blocks.