Drawing on the grand example and inspiration of the Apollo missions that put a man on the moon, the first presentation of this year’s President’s Program talked about the “even grander” mission of global health care for all in the 21st century.
“It’s a dream whose time has come,” said Herbert B. Peterson, MD, FACOG, this year’s Hale Lecture presenter. “And we will climb this magnificent mountain and we will realize this dream. We can see it. We can believe it. And we will, together, find a way to do it for the sake of the women, the children, the adolescents, and the families we serve around the world. We will reach the summit together, and we will deliver on the promise. Succeed we can. Succeed we must. And succeed we will.”
Dr. Peterson, MD, FACOG, the William R. Kenan, Jr. distinguished professor in the departments of obstetrics and gynecology and maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presented “Health and Well-Being for All: Delivering on the Promise for Those We Serve.” He said that initiatives like the September 2015 launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include health and well-being for all, indicate the political will exists to improve the health of everybody, especially women and young children.
But where there’s a will, there needs to be a way, and Dr. Peterson outlined how the health care community can achieve these goals. First, like the Apollo missions, those working must be mission-driven, purposeful and goal-directed.
And all pursuits must be driven by science, with an emphasis on making certain that all interventions are on target. Then those interventions must be delivered to the places needed. Using the example of emergency obstetric and newborn care services, Dr. Peterson said that with 99 percent of all maternal and newborn deaths taking place in developing countries, any plan has to include how to bring in trained surgeons, adequate operating rooms, safe blood, and other supplies.
“On this front, soft drink companies have found ways to bottle and sell their products in these very same settings,” he said. “How can their success become our success?”
The relatively new interdisciplinary field of implementation science has provided what Dr. Peterson called a formula for successful and sustainable outcomes: Effective interventions, followed by effective implementation of those interventions along with an enabling context.
“When we think about systems, we often think about infrastructure,” he said. But health systems are, to a large extent, human systems—people helping each other, working together to get the job done.”
Realizing these global health goals will require collaboration, strong partnerships and teamwork. And the needs are not just in other countries, Dr. Peterson said. Health disparities exist in every state of the United States, which ranks 46th in maternal mortality and 38th in infant mortality as ranked by the United Nations.
Dr. Peterson sees that teamwork across the generations, from Life Fellows to Junior Fellows willing to work on behalf of better global health. A survey of residents who took the 2015 CREOG exam had more good news: 96 percent of those responding said that having global health experience was either somewhat or very important to them.
“So we’re going to have all hands on deck and have all of us working together to develop and sustain the capacity needed to assure the success of our mission,” he said.
Dr. Peterson saluted the thousands of ACOG members and others who participate in global health activities through ACOG, university programs, and other volunteer activities.
“I know that all of us, each and every one of us, is not doing this for recognition, but because this work has its own rewards—rewards deep within that come from serving the underserved whether they live in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, or in our own backyards. Our field, and we are so blessed, is filled with people that have big hearts.”
Those looking for a chance to serve should contact ACOG’s Office of Global Women’s Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hale Lecture Streaming Colloquia Video
ACOG TV interview with Dr. Peterson