Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. “ We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

“So together we will focus on improving health systems for primary health care, specifically through the three critical, priority national programs of both the Federal Ministry and the Provincial Departments of Health – the Maternal and Child Health program; the Lady Health Workers program; and the Expanded Program in Immunization – all programs through which birth spacing counseling and links to services can be provided.   We recognize that these critical health programs are facing funding shortages to maintain current services and undertake new, planned activities.  For this reason USAID has pledged, and I affirm that pledge today, to support these programs and to work together to support and strengthen primary health care service delivery in Pakistan.

“USAID will also work with the MOH to better forecast and procure the mix and quantity of contraceptive commodities to meet Pakistan’s needs, beginning with a secure supply chain for the Lady Health Workers and Lady Health Visitors.    USAID will continue to work with you to apply in service delivery a range of high-impact, evidence-based best practices that contribute to reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality and morbidity. 

“Through this partnership remarkable progress can be made in decreasing maternal and infant mortality in Pakistan, especially through cost-effective innovations in primary health care service delivery.  I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Ministry on your leadership in launching the new Birth Spacing Initiative.  We are confident that it will revitalize the delivery of family planning services as a health intervention; strengthen MOH priority health programs and systems; and save the lives of thousands of Pakistan’s women and children each year. ”