On May 12, Robert W. Amler, M.D., M.B.A., left, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and vice president for government affairs, hosted a special Dean’s Lecture, “Maternal and Neonatal Health & Birthing Kit Foundation – Australia” presented by Joy O’Hazy, MBBS, center, an Australian trained obstetrician-gynecologist who works to improve and increase access to clean, healthy birthing conditions around the world. Dr. O’Hazy was introduced to NYMC by School of Health Sciences and Practice (SHSP) alumna, Karel R. Amaranth, M.P.H. ’12, who has dedicated her professional life to the health and well-being of women and children.
Ms. Amaranth’s 20-year career in the not-for-profit sector has focused on supporting positive change in the lives of families. When Ms. Amaranth was a student, she learned of the concept of a birthing kit in a class taught by Padmini Murthy, M.D., M.P.H., FAMWA, FRSPH, associate professor of public health practice, health policy and management, clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine and global health program director. Fascinated by the idea of something so small making such a significant difference, Ms. Amaranth sought to learn more, eventually writing her thesis on a project exploring the empowerment of local women through social design, microfinance and the use of birthing kits.
Dr. O’Hazy’s presentation provided some sobering facts: 50 percent of all births around the world are unattended by a trained health professional; more than a quarter of a million die in childbirth each year; 99% of those in developing countries, 800 women every day. Babies in these countries are 10 times more likely to die in their first month, many of them from infections contracted due to unsanitary birthing conditions.
In an effort to provide cleaner, safer conditions for women and their babies, Dr. O’Hazy devised a simple birthing kit consisting of a plastic sheet, soap, two gloves, sterile scalpel blade, three cords and five gauze squares., to address the “seven cleans” needed for a safe delivery. Dr. O’Hazy and her colleagues worked to establish cost effective channels for obtaining kit supplies and transportation. In 2006, The Birthing Kit Foundation Australia (BKFA) was established to make and distribute the kits and partner with organizations and communities to advocate, educate and provide support and resources to improve the outcomes for birthing mothers and their babies.