By Tamar Abrams, Communications Director at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon . . .
In a fresh take on addressing global health challenges, the CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies) Task Force on Women’s & Family Health has launched an initiative that targets girls and young women rather than a single health challenge. Released in March, Her Health, Her Lifetime, Our World: Unlocking the Potential of Adolescent Girls and Young Women urges the Trump administration to take bold action in securing the health and prospects of girls and women ages 10 -24 years in 13 low-income countries.
The initiative is ambitious, laying out goals in four key areas: maternal and newborn health, family planning, nutrition, and immunization against HPV to prevent cervical cancer. It builds upon the PEPFAR frameworks that have succeeded in dramatically reducing HIV infections. The targeted countries are: Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
We at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon are gratified to see that the strategy is holistic and looks at the broad range of services a girl needs through adolescence into womanhood. It’s designed to give girls the tools they need to prevent early childbirth while they finish school and then help young women make good decisions that lead to healthy babies if that’s what they choose.
The initiative proposes to prevent cervical cancer by achieving 50-75 percent coverage of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine among 9-14 year old girls. This aligns perfectly with our goal of completely eliminating cervical cancer deaths globally within the next 30 years. The HPV vaccine is a proven effective method of preventing cervical cancer, and the cost of immunizations is going down. The CSIS initiative seeks to fully immunize 40 million adolescent girls at a cost of $843 million between 2017 and 2021. The projected impact of this initiative would be 235,000 lives saved, and nearly 650,000 cases of cervical cancer averted. Imagine the return from that many women who would realize their full potential as mothers, contributing members of their communities and potential leaders.
We are keen to see this initiative take shape and encouraged by its renewed focus on one of the world’s strongest – and often overlooked – assets: girls and women. We are convinced that it will succeed for several reasons.
We affirm the model of public/private partnerships, as well as reliance on the roles of the private sector and sparking innovation. These are all strategies that Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon relies on. We have learned that embracing diverse partners from many sectors results in a strong program in which the contributions of all are leveraged to create a much larger impact than any one organization could ever hope to have.
We have faith in the task force which is comprised of some of the smartest minds in development today: Helene Gayle, Sen. Susan Collins, Christopher Elias, Michael Gerson, Asma Lateef and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen among them. They have carefully crafted a visionary and achievable strategy that will surely unlock the potential of adolescent girls and young women in the 13 targeted countries.
As task force member Afaf Ibrahim Meleis says in the report, “Girls and young women are the future treasure of any country…It is not only a moral obligation to invest in them, but it is also imperative and of vital value for the developed and developing world.”