We have a lot of great partners for this important initiative: Ambassador Brinker and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, UNAIDS, and of course, the Executive Director Sidibe. I also want to recognize Ambassador Dybul, who formerly served in the Bush Administration as the head of PEPFAR, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, who currently serves as the head of PEPFAR; Ambassador Melanne Verveer, who is leading up our efforts on behalf of women worldwide. And I’m not sure that USAID Administrator Shah is here, but if he is, I want to acknowledge you USAID’s role in this, and also the CDC.
And the partnership that is exemplified by the corporate partners working with the Bush Center and with the other nonprofit partners is called the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership. And I am delighted that we are bringing a public-private sector commitment to this fight.
All of us here have some reason why we find ourselves in the Mellon Auditorium on this beautiful September afternoon. But what we have in common, of course, is a passion about saving lives and improving health around the world. And we have to ask ourselves: What can we do that will have the largest impact? And as President Bush said, what can we do that we actually can measure and point to outcomes that change and save lives?
I think this partnership helps to answer that question. Because without a doubt, one of the most powerful and effective ways of saving lives is by improving women’s and particularly mothers’ health.
We have a wealth of data, and we saw personal testimonials in that wonderful video. But if we want to make progress on some of the toughest challenges we face in global health—fighting HIV, preventing childhood deaths, improving nutrition, stopping malaria, and more—then investing in women must be at the top of the agenda.
It starts with the central role that women play in the family and in the community. I’m often struck by how hard women in the developing world work every single day. It’s a woman who is responsible for fetching water and fuel. It’s a woman who is the majority of the farmers who provide the subsistence, back-breaking labor for growing and harvesting food. It’s women who have to figure out how to clothe their children, provide those school fees, and yes, make sure that health is taken care of. It’s women who walk with a sick child miles to the nearest medical clinic. And if that woman herself gets sick or dies, then the family support system breaks down, and everyone who relies on her also suffers.
Studies show too that if a mother dies, the newborn is far more likely to die as well. But if a mother can stay healthy, then the converse is true: her children are likely to be healthy, and they will stay in school longer and they will earn a higher income when they grow up. An analysis published in the Lancet found that half the reduction in child mortality between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to higher rates of education for women.
So the conclusion is clear that if we want to make a difference when it comes to investing in health, then we must invest in women. And historically, women’s health has been chronically underfunded, so that means that we have the opportunity to tap a resource that we’ve been missing out on. And it’s why in the Global Health Initiative that President Obama launched in 2009 we’ve placed a very high priority on women’s health.
We’re building on the efforts of the Bush Administration and PEPFAR and the Malaria Initiative. We’re stepping up our efforts on maternal and child health by increasing the number of trained and equipped caregivers; strengthening obstetric facilities; providing nutrition, antenatal care, vaccines, access to family planning; and investing in innovative technologies.
And in particular with respect to HIV, we recognize HIV/AIDS has become a woman’s disease. In the developing world, our prevention efforts therefore have to focus on women. And our innovations in prevention and treatment have to also give women the tools to protect themselves.
We’re increasing our investments to help pregnant women living with HIV avoid passing the virus on to their unborn children. And we’re taking on the related issue of gender-based violence. It is a cause of transmission that gets, I think, far too little attention.
Women are on the front lines in our efforts to provide greater nutrition to their children. The 1,000 days from pregnancy to birth are critical in making sure a child is healthy. That’s why the essential nutrients, the vitamins, the fortified foods to pregnant women and babies in some of the most remote areas of the world will pay off.
As we emphasize women’s health, then we have to make sure that we make it as easy as possible for women to access these services. And I appreciate President Bush mentioning that we’ve invested – the American people have invested – in a terrific system. The PEPFAR clinics are there. They’re a reminder that the American people care about the health of the people of Africa and elsewhere.
But we want to make sure that when a person, particularly a woman, goes to that clinic, she can get other services as well. She might need prenatal care. She might need vaccines for her children. And it used to be very difficult to do that because the way that we had set up our system made it more likely than not that you would go for HIV treatment one place and then you’d have to go somewhere else for prenatal care. That’s just not practical in many places. So part of what this new initiative will do is to emphasize the importance of trying to create one-stop shops, so to speak – clinics that offer a range of services under one roof.
And so PEPFAR and the State Department are very excited about joining this Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership. And as we aim at the goal of reducing cervical cancer deaths among women, we hope that we will see results very quickly. As President Bush said, we see results from the President’s Initiative on Malaria. We want to see results equally from this effort to reduce deaths from cervical cancer.
Our partners from both the public and the private sector will help us raise awareness about breast cancer and cervical cancer, will help make screening more available, HPV vaccines more available and affordable, and advocate for effective policies within the countries that we serve.
I am delighted that the first lady of Rwanda is here, because Rwanda has been a great example of how to do this. And we appreciate the opportunity to continue to work with you and others.
So let me again thank the Bush family and the Bush Center and all who work with you in order to create this new partnership. And I am pleased to announce today that as our contribution to the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership, we are committing an additional $10 million, for a total of $30 million over five years. (Applause.)
The United States already supports screening and treatment of women for cervical cancer at more than 250 clinics in 11 African countries. This funding will help ensure that we can provide screening and treatment to even more women who are at risk.
And I greatly appreciate all the work that we are doing together and what we will be doing in the future. So thank you again, President Bush. Thanks to all of you who are part of this partnership. And I hope that by this time next year, we will be able to point to the results that we hope to achieve; and when we do, we will see more women like the ones who were in this video recognizing that there are opportunities to keep them and their children alive. And they will recognize that the United States of America is, of course, the greatest nation in the world, but in large measure because of the great hearts of the people of our country.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)