Full document: Global Strategy for Women's and Children's health
Investing in the health of women and children makes good sense
Women and children play a crucial role in development. Investing more in women’s and children’s health is not only the right thing to do; it also builds stable, peaceful and productive societies. Increasing investment has many benefits.
- It reduces poverty. Charging women and children less, or nothing, for health services improves access to care and enables poorer families to spend more money on food, housing, education and activities that generate income. Healthy women work more productively, and stand to earn more throughout their lives. Addressing under-nutrition in pregnant women and children leads to an increase of up to 10% in an individual’s lifetime earnings.5 In contrast, poor sanitation leads to diarrhea and parasitic diseases, which reduce productivity and prevent children from going to school.
- It stimulates economic productivity and growth. Maternal and newborn deaths slow growth and lead to global productivity losses of US $15 billion each year.6 By failing to address under-nutrition, a country may have a 2% lower GDP than it otherwise would.7 In contrast, investing in children’s health leads to high economic returns and offers the best guarantee of a productive workforce in the future. For example, between 30% and 50% of Asia’s economic growth from 1965 to 1990 has been attributed to improvements in reproductive health and reductions in infant and child mortality and fertility rates.8
Building on our health and human rights commitments
The Global Strategy builds on commitments made by countries and partners at several events: the Programme of Action agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development; the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action agreed at the Fourth World Conference on Women; the ECOSOC Ministerial Review on Global Health; UNGA side session, “Healthy Women, Healthy Children: Investing in Our Common Future”; and the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. It also builds on regional commitments and efforts, such as the Maputo Plan of Action, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), and the African Union Summit Declaration 2010 for Actions on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.3
Women’s and children’s health is recognized as a fundamental human right in treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Human Rights Council also recently adopted a specific resolution on maternal mortality.4
- It is cost-effective. Essential health care prevents illness and disability, saving billions of dollars in treatment. In many countries, every dollar spent on family planning saves at least four dollars that would otherwise be spent treating complications arising from unplanned pregnancies.It is cost-effective. Essential health care prevents illness and disability, saving billions of dollars in treatment. In many countries, every dollar spent on family planning saves at least four dollars that would otherwise be spent treating complications arising from unplanned pregnancies.9 For less than US $5 (and sometimes as little as US $1) childhood immunization can give a child a year of life free from disability and suffering.9 For less than US $5 (and sometimes as little as US $1) childhood immunization can give a child a year of life free from disability and suffering.10
- It helps women and children realize their fundamental human rights. People are entitled to the highest attainable standard of health.11 This fundamental principle of development and human rights is affirmed by many countries in a range of international and regional human-rights treaties.