Creation of International Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Week

On November 27th 2014, Senator Asha Seth passed a Senate motion establishing International Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Week annually during the second week of May.

Throughout Senator Seth’s 38 years of practice in obstetrics, it has been her sworn duty to protect the wellbeing of mothers and children everywhere. As a physician, she has helped hundreds of families enjoy the gifts of a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood. She has worked all her life to educate others on good health practices during pregnancy and early development; and in recent years, the work that our government is doing on behalf of mothers and children around the world encouraged her to expand her efforts.

Canada has already accomplished a great deal in reducing maternal and child mortality. 400,000 fewer children died in 2012 than in 2010; and this year, at least 250,000 more women will live through pregnancy and childbirth than five years ago. Much of this can be credited to efforts that Canada has supported.

For many months, Senator Seth has advocated for the creation of a space that allows for the yearly discussion of issues affecting mothers and children, especially those living in vulnerable conditions. She is now proud to announce that on November 27th, 2014, her colleagues unanimously supported her Senate motion to establish the second week of May as “International Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Week,” the second week of May being significant as it will coincide each year with Mother’s Day.

Senator Seth first launched this initiative in an effort to guarantee that the focus on tackling this important issue would never have the opportunity to slow down. She knew that if priorities shifted, everything that had been accomplished could be at risk. She would not let this happen. Senator Seth needed to ensure that, no matter what, stakeholders in the field of MNCH had a time and a place to advocate, to educate, and to propose relevant solutions after 2015. 

Our government has been excited about this motion since its introduction in its ability to give a platform for Canadians, stakeholders and government to promote the health and wellbeing of mothers and children around the world. Stories of women and children who are unnecessarily dying from preventable illnesses or lack of adequate health care during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy will be highlight in an effort to enact change.

Senator Seth wants to give a voice to those mothers and children living in households of lower socioeconomic status, those with lower levels of education, those who are newcomers, and those groups who live in remote and sparsely populated areas of Canada; so that they may too have a space to request equal access to care. 

In the short time since the motion has been introduced, stakeholders from across Canada, and from as far away as India have come to encourage its passage, which will allow them to engage in this conversation every year. More than 80 organizations have approached Senator Seth to express their excitement to come celebrate next May, including the Canadian MNCH Network and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.

Senator Seth is grateful to all the members of the Senate chamber who spoke in support of this initiative, Senator Doyle, Senator Maltais, Senator Enverga, and many more. In addition, this motion gained much support from Members of the House of Commons who kept aware of this initiative and spoke so graciously on behalf of its passage. Minister Rona Ambrose, Minister Jason Kenney, Minister Christian Paradis, Minister Ed Fast, Minister Ed Holder, MP Lois Brown, MP Joe Daniel, and of course, our Right Honourable Prime Minister, who personally wrote to Senator Seth, encouraging this campaign. 

This avalanche of support is confirmation that this motion is pursuing a worthy and honourable goal and will empower all Canadians and MNCH partners to galvanize support for the next phase of efforts to reduce the preventable deaths of newborns, mothers and children everywhere. 

As the Prime Minister has said, “saving the lives of mothers and children is not only a moral imperative, it is the foundation for building prosperous communities for this generation and the next.” 

It was not an easy fight but Senator Seth is proud to have this week as part of the government’s continued efforts to improve the health of mothers and children.

Please find Senator Seth’s Senate Motion introduction speech here:

Please find additional information on the government’s work on MNCH here:

December 3, 2014- Hosting Parliament Hill reception celebrating the establishment of International Maternal, Newborn and Child Week