WMU News

WMU's Thompson addresses WHO summit in India

April 6, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University professor is traveling to India this week to attend a high-profile summit addressing global health issues.

Dr. Joyce Thompson, the Bernardine Lacey Professor of Community Health in WMU's Bronson School of Nursing, will present a brief report during an annual meeting of the World Health Organization, which will be held in conjunction with World Health Day Thursday, April 7. Each year, the WHO delivers a report on World Health Day. This year's report deals with maternal and child health, a topic of great concern to Thompson.

As director of the International Confederation of Midwives' Board of Management, Thompson serves in the highest elected post for a midwife in the world, a position she has held for the past six years. She is also the co-chair of the Partnership for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health.

The summit she will attend is titled "High Level Meeting on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health" and will be held the afternoon of Thursday, April 7, all day Friday, April 8, and the morning of Saturday, April 9. It is also sponsored by the Partnership for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health, the Healthy Newborn Partnership, the Child Survival Partnership and the government of India.

Both the prime minister of India and Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, director general of the WHO, will be in attendance. It is not known if Thompson will have the opportunity to talk directly with either, but if so, her message will be in support of the role of midwives and nurses with midwifery skills in making pregnancy and birth safe for all women in the world.

Thompson will present a brief report during the meeting on the role of the International Confederation of Midwives and on midwives working collaboratively with obstetricians, nurses and pediatricians to achieve good health among pregnant women, mothers, newborns and children.

"My mantra for the past 20 years has been 'Healthy women lead to healthy children, and healthy children lead to healthy nations. So without healthy women, there will be no healthy nations,'" Thompson says. "My work in the world as a nurse-midwife for nearly 40 years has reinforced this vital connection between the health of women and the health of any society."

According to the WHO, more than half a million women die from pregnancy-related causes each year. In addition, 10.6 million children die each year, 40 percent of them in the first month of life. Almost all of these deaths are in developing countries, and many deaths could be prevented with well-known interventions, if only they were more widely available.

"It is imperative for nations to grow and develop global attention and that resources be organized and used to guarantee the world's most vulnerable populations of women and children their rights to safety, security, health and well-being," Thompson says.

Although her journey to India may seem like a faraway meeting of minds, Thompson makes clear that world health issues also affect us locally.

"We must work everywhere where women and children are vulnerable," she says.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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