Media Advisory - SOGC Annual Clinical Meeting, Ottawa, June 21 to 26, 2007 - Canadian and International Health Professionals meet to discuss why half a million mothers still dying each year

    WHAT:      The 2007 International Women's Health Symposium

    WHEN:      Thursday, June 21, 2007 / 08:00-17:00

    WHERE:     The Westin Ottawa - Confederation Ballroom
               11 Colonel By Drive
               Ottawa, ON
               K1N 9H4

    OTTAWA, June 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Hundreds of Canadian and International
ob/gyns, health professionals, world health leaders, and NGO representatives
will meet tomorrow in Ottawa to discuss why twenty years of global efforts
have not been able to reduce the number of mothers and newborns dying
needlessly during childbirth.
    Exactly 20 years have passed since the world's top global health and
development organizations vowed to cut by half the number of women and infants
dying needlessly during childbirth. Today, the numbers remain unchanged - in
2007 alone, a half-million women will die during childbirth, almost all of
these deaths are preventable. In some parts of the world there have been
improvements but for each of these gains there have been losses and in some
cases, increases in maternal deaths with 90% of these deaths taking place in
the developing world.
    "Certainly, progress has been made in many areas," said Dr. Dorothy Shaw,
President of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. "But
it is a humbling experience that on the 20th anniversary of these goals, we
still have a half-million women dying every year."
    Tomorrow, health experts will be meeting in Ottawa for the International
Women's Health Symposium, in conjunction with the 63rd Annual Meeting of the
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). The symposium
will examine the progress and failures of the past 20 years since the global
health community set goals for itself at a pivotal meeting in Kenya. In 1987,
the World Bank, World Health Organization, and the United Nations Fund for
Population Activities brought together political and health leaders from
around the world for a landmark conference in Nairobi. The purpose of the
conference was to develop a plan to save mothers around the world, with the
goal of reducing the number of women who die during childbirth by 50 percent,
in the year 2000.
    In Ottawa, symposium participants will review progress, especially in
countries such as Africa, and look at the roles of professional associations
like the SOGC in championing for change and offering assistance.
    "It's all too easy to look at the numbers of women dying and say, 'this
problem is just too big'," said Dr. André Lalonde, Executive Vice-President of
the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). "But there
is no mystery about how to prevent these deaths. We know what works, but we
need the partnerships and global commitment to bring about sustained change."
    For its part, the SOGC and its members have been engaged in significant
ways for many years in international efforts to improve maternal and child
health. Since 1999, the SOGC has undertaken medical training and capacity
building interventions around the world, aimed at reducing the number of women
in low-resource countries who die during childbirth. In May, for example, the
Society initiated the new Quarité project, a nearly $5-million, four-year
initiative to train health care professionals in Senegal and Mali. In
collaboration with the University of Montreal, SOGC will offer medical
training in emergency obstetrical care, aimed at addressing the most common
causes of death during childbirth. The Quarité project, which is funded by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will also include a large evaluation
component to measure the program's success at addressing the tragedy of
maternal mortality, measured against a control group of hospitals in the
region. The program will focus on offering training within a framework
stressing the importance of women's sexual and reproductive health rights.
    Some of Canada's, and the world's, experts and advocates for improved
birthing conditions around the world will be available to media at this
important global event.

    Members of the media are invited to attend this symposium:

    Symposium Highlights

    - Safe Motherhood Initiatives: 20 Years and Counting
      Ann Starrs, MD / Executive Vice-President, Family Care International

    - Mobilizing Political Will for Safe Motherhood in Uganda
      Sylvia Ssinabulya / Member of Parliament, Kampala, Uganda
    - Why do some Global Health Initiatives Succeed and others Fail?
      Lessons from the Case of Safe Motherhood
      Jeremy Shiffman, PhD, Syracuse, NY

    The complete symposium schedule is available online at:

    For More Information:

    About the International Women's Health Program

    Every minute around the world, one woman dies during labour or
    The International Women's Health Program is an initiative of the Society
of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). Since 1999, the program
has conducted medical training and capacity building interventions around the
world, involving the participation of volunteering Canadian doctors, nurses,
midwives and other health professionals.
    The main focus of these interventions is to strengthen the capacity of
health care centres and professionals in emergency obstetrical care as well as
support the strengthening of professional associations. The International
Women's Health Program aims to promote safe pregnancy and childbirth worldwide
through the development of partnerships to help ameliorate safe motherhood and
newborn health, and through programs such as ALARM International, a mobilizing
training tool for healthcare professional that address the main causes of
maternal and newborn mortality.
    The ALARM International Program has been delivered in 17 countries, and
is planned in five more, including: Benin, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala,
Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kosovo, Mali, Mexico, The Phillippines, Uganda,
Ukraine, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Yemen. Through its partnership program, SOGC is
supporting the societies of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Uganda,
Ukraine, Guatemala, Haiti, Kosovo and Burkina Faso to increase their
organizational capacities so that they can assume leadership in the field of
maternal and neonatal health.

For further information:

For further information: or to schedule interviews on these or other
topics related to women's health, members of the media are invited to contact:
Lisa Robertson, (613) 739-7032; Susan Wright, (613) 730-2020

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