Adolescent pregnancy, women’s and children’s health on WHO/EB agenda

World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board (EB) meets in Geneva

Adolescent mother
Photo credit WHO

16-25 JANUARY 2012 | GENEVA – The WHO Executive has received several reports highlighting the women’s and children’s health, including one report examining the issue of early marriages, and adolescent and young pregnancies. The Director-General, nominated for another term of office, also highlighted the need to focus on women’s and children’s health in her opening address.

In her opening address, Dr Chan spoke of the continuing need to focus on providing healthcare in low and middle-income countries for women’s and children’s health.

Along with its regular administrative issues, the Executive Board addressed WHO’s financial crisis and WHO reform and received several technical reports which touched on reproductive, maternal and newborn health. They included: a report on Infant and young child nutrition (EB130/10), the Report on the Monitoring of the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (EB130/13), and a report on the Implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health (EB 130/14) and the Draft global vaccine action plan: Update (EB 130/21

Early marriages, adolescent and young pregnancies (EB 130/12) describes the current global situation, where in 2008, there were 16 million births to mothers aged 15-19. This represents some 11% of all births worldwide, with 95% of the births taking place in low- and middle-income countries. The report also notes that in some sub-Saharan countries, the proportion of women who give birth before the age of 15 years has ranged from 0.3% to as high as 12%. The Report notes the often negative consequences of such early pregnancies, and discussed options for prevention of early pregnancy among adolescents, including the need for sexual and reproductive education and empowerment, and calls on the health sector “to implement interventions to improve the delivery of health services to adolescents”.

Commission on Information and Accountability

In her opening address, Dr Chan also mentioned women`s and children`s health, and the Commission on Information and Accountability, for which WHO is responsible:

"The framework for information and accountability is part of a chain of innovative mechanisms and instruments linked to the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

"The Commission’s sharp, smart, and lean recommendations are now supported by a detailed workplan for translating these recommendations into action. The workplan greatly facilities rapid action, especially to develop systems for vital registration, by identifying existing instruments, methodologies, guidelines, and best practices that can be used immediately or easily modified to fill gaps.

"Oversight, which includes identifying the best value-for-money approaches, has been assigned to an independent Expert Review Group. The Group was established in September of last year and held its first meeting two months later.

"With these developments, public health breaks new ground by tackling a long-standing need. That is: to build national capacity to generate and analyse basic health data.

"Without information, at country level, we can never have accountability. Without information, we can never know what a “best” or a “wise” investment really means. Without information, we are working in the dark, pouring money into a black hole.

"This is totally unacceptable at a time when every dollar counts, and both donors and recipients must be held accountable."