Amie Batson has a dream global health resume: an early stint with the World Health Organization improving access to vaccines, followed by time at the World Bank developing new funding mechanisms to pay for them, capped by a US Agency for International Development assignment working with the President’s Global Health Initiative.
Her latest challenge? Serving as the first chief strategy officer for PATH. On the job about a month, Amie already has a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish. “My hope,” she says, “is to ensure that PATH is having the absolute maximum impact on improving health and health equity.”
This week, Amie is taking part in Women Deliver, an international conference focused on the health and well-being of girls and women being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On Thursday, she’s part of a press conference there, addressing our work on a non-pneumatic antishock garment to treat women experiencing postpartum hemorrhage.
Q. If you could put in place three interventions to improve women’s health, what would they be?
Amie Batson: One of the most impactful interventions we could put in place clearly is family planning. Enabling a woman to make her own decision about when to get pregnant is powerful. It could allow a girl to delay her first pregnancy until her body is more mature, or to stay in school longer. It enables her to have control over her body until she is ready for and wants children. All would have a dramatic impact on her health for the rest of her life. And after she’s had her first child, being able to control the spacing of future children, if she desires them, is something that’s going to directly affect her lifelong physical and mental health.
A place at the table
I think a second issue underlying women’s health is adequate nutrition. Often the woman is the last in the family to get food, and yet she may be the member of the family who’s doing the hardest labor and working the longest hours. And when she’s pregnant or breastfeeding, the demands on her body only increase. It would have a lasting impact on health if her nutritional needs were met with greater food diversity, nutritional value, and sheer caloric intake.
Safe pregnancy, healthy delivery
Obviously when a woman is having a child, good antenatal care is very important to identify potential complications and ensure she is taking the actions to ensure a healthy pregnancy. When she is ready to deliver, she needs access to a facility that has the necessary skilled health staff, drugs, and equipment. And she needs a facility that provides respectful quality of care so she, and the women she talks to in her community, go back.
And one more: education
I know this is number four, but I have to raise education. Often when we think about a woman’s health, we think only in terms of health interventions. In fact, it’s been shown that a woman’s education has an enormous impact on her health, and if she has children, on her children’s health.
I think we need to think a little more broadly about what it takes to ensure a woman’s health—not only at the specific points in her life when she needs care, like when she is delivering her baby, but also the broader environment. The education she’s had access to, the gender violence that she may be at risk from—these are core factors that impact her health.