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Role Of Public Maternal And Child Programs


Over a couple of years the role of taking care of newborn children and pregnant women was seen as a role of mothers and midwives in the society. Research has shown that the development of public maternal programs originated in Europe in the 19th century after they noticed that children and healthy mothers were important to the country’s military, economic and political activities (Hofmeyr, 2005). On the other hand civil servants and women organizations also fought for children and women’s health. In the early 20th century child and women health care became a priority of most public health operations with full support from the state (Abrahams et al, 2001).

In 1948 the United Nation’s clearly stated the responsibilities and roles of states and governments in the provision of assistance and care for children and mothers. WHO’s constitution gave a declaration that one of its core activities was promotion of child health and maternal welfare (Besser et al, 2002).

In 1950s most organizations mainly targeted children and mothers as vulnerable groups that needed special attention (Department of Health, 1999). This however led to formulation of formulation of policies on population control in countries with high fertility rates. These policies mainly stressed on the use of contraceptives as a measure of reducing population (Ravindran, 2005; Cooper et al, 2004).

A movement that stated in Alma Ata in the year 1978 also had the issues of mothers and children at heart as vulnerable groups (World Health Report, 2005). This approach gave an emphasis on health being a basic right of every human being sheIDing light on equality on distribution of resources , provision of promotive and preventive health care among other issues (Cooper et al, 2004).

Changes in the nature of politics and the pressure from civil societies have led to the development of human rights programs and agreements on the promotion of maternal health care. These agreements have also given a provision of how maternal health, gender equality and reduction of poverty work together to achieve national development and sustainability ( Department of Health, 1999).


Abrahams, N., Jewkes, R. and Mvo, Z. 2001. Health Care-Seeking Practices of

Pregnant Women and the Role of the Midwife in Cape Town, South Africa. Journal of

Midwifery and Women’s Health. Vol 46, No 4, July/August 2001.

Besser, M., Paruk, F. and Dinat, N. 2002. Changing Obstetric Practices in the Context

of HIV: An evaluation of service provision in the national PMTCT learning sites.

Health Systems Trust, Johannesburg and Durban.

Cooper, D., Morroni, C., Orner, P., Moodley, J., Harries, J., Cullingworth, L. and

Hoffman, M. 2004. Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa: Documenting

transformation in reproductive health policy and status. Reproductive Health Matters,

Vol 12, No 24, 2004.

Department of Health, 1999 (a). Saving Mothers: Report on the Confidential

Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in South Africa 1998. Department of Health, Pretoria.


Department of Health, 1999 (b). South African Demographic and Health Survey

  1. Full Report. Department of Health, Pretoria.

Hofmeyr, J. 2005. Improving the Experience of Birth in Poor Communities. East

London Hospital Complex, East Lond and University of the Witwatersrand,


Liljestrand, J. and Gryboski, K.


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