Twenty years ago, the countries of the former Soviet Union declared independence. Since that time, many countries in the region have experienced what can rightly be described as a revolution in women's health care. Thanks in large part to U.S. investments in the country of Georgia's health sector, for example, maternity care has been modernized and families have been placed at the center of health care delivery systems.
At a time when the value and future of U.S. foreign assistance is being questioned, it is important to remember how much has been accomplished in countries like Georgia and in regions across the world -- and how much more remains to be done.
Modernizing maternity care in Georgia has reduced the amount of unnecessary medical interventions (such as episiotomies and labor stimulation) and invited women's partners and families to take part in the process of pregnancy and birth. These and other practices have reduced the postpartum hemorrhage rate (a major killer of women worldwide) to less than 1 percent -- saving the lives of countless Georgian women.
On February 1, the Government of Georgia kicked off a two-day conference in Washington, D.C. dedicated to further strengthening that country's health care system by 2020. The conference brought together high level Georgian and American health professionals -- from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors -- who shared their ideas and experiences and crafted a 10-year strategic plan for strengthening Georgia's health system.
To implement the strategic plan, Georgia is seeking investment from a variety of sources: the U.S. and Georgian private sectors, international nongovernmental organizations, and, of course, governments such as the U.S.
We cannot afford to let the Georgians down. Georgia not only needs to sustain the gains in women's health mentioned above, but it also needs to continue to improve on them and extend them to all citizens -- men, women, and children. The U.S. has a strategic imperative to continue to help the Georgia's of the world improve the health and well being of their people.
After all, a healthier world is a more secure world.