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Centre for Global Child Health

SickKids contributes to major report on health in South Asia

A consortium of more than 60 authors from across South Asia and internationally, including from the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, have come together to identify health priorities and recommendations for action to improve health of populations in one of the fastest-growing regions of the world: South Asia. Their findings were published today in the BMJ in a collection titled ‘Health in South Asia’.

Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Co-Director, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, is a Guest Editor of the special issue. At the launch in India, he underscored the importance of scientific collaboration and partnerships in the region to address priority issues and gaps in public health and play a role in peace building.

“We have the cumulative knowledge and skills to move the entire region to a much higher level of human development and living standards, provided we work together; health could well be that bridge to peace,” says Bhutta who is also the Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University.

Dr. Bhutta and other members of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health outlined key actions for governments in the region to improve maternal and child health under the framework of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nadia Akseer, Centre Biostatistician, led the analysis on maternal and child health in the region along with experts from each country of South Asia.

“South Asia comprises a large part of the global population and, strikingly, contains some of the highest maternal and child mortality rates worldwide,” says Nadia. “Gains over the past decade provide evidence that progress is possible, but much more can be done with focus on scaling up evidence based interventions and addressing barriers in reaching the SDGs."

The analysis included countries that are active members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Key findings from the report suggest that:

  • While South Asia has reduced maternal mortality ratio across the region, mortality remains high in many countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal.
  • Despite progress in delivering antenatal care and vaccinations, wide disparities exist across wealth groups and between rural and urban populations in many countries.
  • Social determinants and health systems or policies are important contributors to observed improvement and differentials in the region.
  • Ongoing challenges include conflict or insecurity, malnutrition, encouraging empowerment of girls and women, and supporting better and timely data collection.

Read the full papers:
Progress in maternal and child health: how has South Asia fared?
On the brink of conflict: the people of South Asia deserve better