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Thoughts of our founder Toyin Saraki as she marks 48th birthday

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

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As I mark my 48th birthday I re-dedicate and reinforce my commitments to advocating for the attainment of Millennium Development Goals for women and children in Africa.

I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Almighty God for the greatest gifts of all, life, love, health, enlightenment, happiness, rights, education, family and friendship, peace and tolerance!

May we all be blessed!

Amen

Wellbeing Foundation Africa Creates Awareness on World Down Syndrome Day

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

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In recognition of the 7th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day on the 21st of March 2012, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), a leading pan-African maternal newborn and child health (MNCH) advocacy and empowerment organization, urges public and private healthcare providers to equip hospitals and clinics with amenities necessary to facilitate prenatal testing that will aid in the diagnosis of Down syndrome. This year will mark the first time World Down Syndrome Day will be officially observed by the United Nations.

All around the world, millions of individuals are fighting against the stigma and exclusion that comes with living with Down syndrome as many communities are not cognisant of the complexities of the disorder and are unaware of the vital contributions that those living with Down syndrome make to society. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, promulgators of change and awareness, recently sponsored members of the Nigerian Special Olympics swim team who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

A genetic chromosomal disorder, Down syndrome affects approximately one in seven hundred live births with older women having a higher risk of giving birth to children with the disorder. Causing various physical and mental complications including flattened facial features, heart defects and learning disabilities, Down syndrome can be diagnosed prenatally during pregnancy using several different tests including ultrasounds, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Unfortunately however, many health care providers in Nigeria and other countries in Africa lack the technical capacity and equipment to conduct diagnostics that will inform expectant mothers of their child’s health during pregnancy.

In addition to encouraging the success of those living with the congenital disorder, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has included an optional Down syndrome special growth chart, developed by the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group, in its revolutionary WBFA Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health Personal Health Record (PHR)©. A simple yet effective tool that will help achieve United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3, 4 and 5, the PHR© provides pregnant women with a documented record of their medical conditions, every stage in their pregnancy, and the life of their child for the first 5 years. With this tool, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa is working to ensure that all mothers receive a full continuum of care from well informed healthcare professionals. Given that children born with Down syndrome have special health needs such as heart and intestinal abnormalities, the Personal Health Records© with the Down syndrome special growth chart takes the developmental trajectory of these children into account. Currently, the Personal Health Records© has empowered over 200,000 mothers in Nigeria with the Foundation committed to reaching a total of 5.3 million women by 2015.

On World Down Syndrome Day, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa not only calls for better equipped prenatal testing facilities across the continent, but encourages all communities to learn more about Down syndrome and embrace those living with the disorder.

Engaging MPs: Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Members of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria Appeal to Senate and House of Reps to Improve Maternal and Child Health on International Women’s Day

Monday, March 12th, 2012

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On International Women’s Day, the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria (WRAN) chairedby Her Excellency Mrs.ToyinSaraki, the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, spearheaded an advocacy initiative to receive concrete commitments from individual parliament members in a letter requesting the Nigerian Senate and members of the House of Representatives to make reducing maternal and infant mortality a priority within government.

In an effort to instigate political action regarding improvements in Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in Nigeria, members of WRAN—a national constituent of a global organization working in over 150 countries to advocate for the prevention of needless deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, paid visit to the National Assembly on the 8th of March 2012 to discuss issues regarding women and child health, and engage the Nigerian parliamentarians ahead of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly taking place in Kampala, Uganda at the end of the month. The WRAN member organizations represented at the visit included the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Save the Children, the Zamfara Wellwoman Initiative, and the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria. Also in attendance were WRAN supporters and Board members including Her Excellency Aisha Babangida Shinkafi, the wife of the former governor of Zamfara State and head of the Zamfara Wellwoman Initative, as well as Dr. Benjamin Anyene and Hadiza Aminu Dorayi.

Working in fulfillment of the Global White Ribbon Alliance’s ‘Action of the Month’ which calls for all alliance members to engage policy makers and local leaders to demonstrate the power of leaders and advocates collaborating to improve maternal health in celebration of International Women’s Day and in preparation for the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, WRAN has made strides on both the national and state level. According to WRAN’sInternational Women’s Day activity report facilitated by Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki and the WRAN National Coordinator, the chair of the Senate Committee of Health Senator Gyang Dalyop communicated that the president has earmarked 30 million USD for the eradication of polio this year while the government is actively trying to improve the National Health Insurance Scheme in order to save the lives of women and children during pregnancy and childbirth. Moreover, Senator Gyang added that over 15 billion naira has been set aside for MNCH from savings intended to be made from the recent fuel subsidy removal. The Senator then assured WRAN delegates that all oversights in the area of maternal health will be covered by the Health Committee and that there will be a reduction in Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate by the year’s end.

At the WRAN Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the 24th of February 2012, Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki—the chair of the Board and the Founder of WBF Africa, urged WRAN members to work together in holding government and stakeholders accountable for the lives of women and children in Nigeria; and the meetings at the National Assembly were testament of Her Excellency’s commitment to mobilizing, taking action and reducing preventable deaths that can be avoided through technical and operational improvements in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

In the second National Assembly meeting of the day with the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House, HonourableTambuwal, commented that while poverty is the leading cause of deaths among women and children, the country has adopted domestic policies to address this and is currently working with NGOs and other organizations to this end; yet, integration is necessary to make MNCH efforts successful. Honourable Tambuwal also added that the House of Reps will constantly seek to make policies more effective and pledged that a Technical Working Group will be set up between WRAN and the House towards building partnership with the members of the House of Representatives.

At the State level, WRAN Board members also engaged state parliamentarians in a visit to the Chairman of the Enugu State House of Assembly Committee on Health, Dr. Emeka Ogbuabo. A recipient of the letter calling for MNCHparliamentarian action, Dr.Ogbuabo acknowledged the challenges in the Enugu State health sector and ensured that his committee will enact the Enugu State policy on free maternal and child into law.

The letters sent to the parliamentarians calling for action and commitment in addition to the meetings with the Senate and the House of Representatives on International Women’s Day is one of many steps to addressing negative national figures including the unfortunate statistic of approximately 800 out of every 100,000 women dying during live births in Nigeria. Therefore, the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria in conjunction with the Wellbeing Foundation under the leadership of Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki will continue to take action to address systematic healthcare failures, highlight inappropriate policies, and see to the adequate training of health-workers while advocating for the provision of universal access to quality public healthcare for pregnant women and children in Nigeria.

 

Signed: Lore Dada

Communications

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa

Wellbeing Foundation Africa President Celebrates Women’s Achievements and Inspires Others at WIE Symposium London on International Women’s Day

Monday, March 12th, 2012

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In commemoration of the success and triumphs of women around the world on International Women’s Day, the Founder and President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki, articulated her vision for maternal newborn and child health (MNCH), and shared the Foundation’s goal of empowering the lives of 5.3 million women and children in Africa by 2015 at the Women: Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Symposium which took place at The Hospital Club in London on the 8th of March 2012.

With an atmosphere filled with solidarity, inspiration and achievement, the WIE Symposium, under the general theme ‘Owning Your Success,’ brought together a diverse array of motivated women who shared their stories and exemplified their dedication to collectively achieving social change. Speaking on the ‘Unstoppable Woman’ panel at the day-long conference, Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki, who also participated in last year’s WIE Symposium in New York, expressed her commitment to transforming the lives of women in Nigeria, Africa, and around the world through the Wellbeing Foundation Africa.

Describing an unstoppable woman as “a woman who, despite all the challenges, is utterly committed to achieving her vision to transform lives wherever she is,” Mrs. Saraki’s unstoppable moment which led to the creation of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa in 2003 stemmed from tragedy.“When I lost one of my twin children during child birth, I soon realised that no matter who you are, what you have, you are at the mercy of the health system,” Her Excellency candidly stated. This heart-breaking incident then prompted the realization that the intrinsic flaws in the Nigerian healthcare system could only be addressed through practical action from all sectors—the public sector, the organised private sector, and civil society.

“My vision is to ensure that every woman and every child in Africa has their own personal individual health record and my intention is not to stop until that is so, for when you empower a woman you empower a nation; an empowered woman is a health-seeking woman, for herself, her children, her family and her community” Mrs. Toyin Saraki declared. To this end, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa is committed to saving the lives of 5.3 million women and children across Africa through the distribution of the WBFA IMNCH Personal Health Records© which empower women with a documented record of their medical conditions, every stage in their pregnancy, and the life of their child for the first 5 years; thus giving them prompt access to the right care from properly informed health professionals. “With the Personal Health Record©, we have put a tangible Millennium Development Goal attainment tool in the hands of women, children and health service providers,”Mrs. Saraki stated.

The annual WIE symposium brings together prominent leaders from the worlds of politics, business, fashion, philanthropy, media, entertainment and the arts, in a full day of lively panels, workshops, master-classes and an inspirational awards ceremony. Also speaking at the London event was Brigid McConville, Global Director of the White Ribbon Alliance—an international coalition of individuals and organizationsadvocating for the availability of life-saving healthcare that will prevent needless deaths that occur during childbirth daily. As a member of the ‘Dreams for My Daughter’ panel, the WRA Director alongside other advocates put maternal and infant mortality into perspective. “If the mother dies in a family, the whole social network falls apart…Women have been silent for too long,” said actress Diana Quick.

The White Ribbon Alliance’s ‘Dreams for My Daughter’ campaign, which was simultaneously celebrated on the 8th of March in an exhibition by renowned photographer Joanna Vestey at the Women of the World festival at the UK’s famous Southbank Centre, aims to give all daughters hope for a brighter future and shatter the vicious cycle of low education, poverty and child marriage in developing countries. Sharing her own dream for her daughter, McConville conveyed that she dreams her daughter will see deaths during childbirth and pregnancy as a thing of the past.

Having been elected chair of the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria Board of Directors on the 23rd of February 2012, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa Founder- President Her Excellency Mrs.ToyinSaraki, the leading African Advocate for women’s health and empowerment through the Every Woman Every Child Effort of the United Nations Secretary General, also shares the dream of eradicating maternal and infant mortality. Having raised the national alarm on maternal mortality in Nigeria in 2004, she has worked tirelessly ever since to find practical multi-sector solutions and is actively creating strategic partnerships to ensure the attainment of UN Millennium Development Goals 3, 4, and 5 in commitment to MNCH. Forging beneficial multi-sector collaborative platforms under Mrs.Saraki’s leadership, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, a key African Philanthropic Organisation,continues to advocate for Africa-focused and Africa-driven life-saving universal access to quality public healthcare for pregnant women and children across the African continent.

Signed: Lore Dada
Communications, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa

Wellbeing Foundation Africa President Elected Chair of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria Board and Hosts Evening Reception after Annual General Meeting

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

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WBF Founder H.E Mrs. ToyinSaraki and Dr. Ado J G Muhammad NPHCDA

As a member organization of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa under the leadership of Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki, continues to show its dedication to maternal health and successful childbirth for women in Nigeria, and inevitably—worldwide.

The 23rd of February 2012 marked the first meeting of the newly elected Board of Directors of the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria (WRAN); and in this meeting, the Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa—Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki, was elected chair of the board. Her Excellency expressed excitement regarding the opportunity to work with leaders and organisations from around the country who are working towards the same goal of saving the lives of women and children in Nigeria, stating, “This is a journey I started over 20 years ago which led to the establishment of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa.” To date, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has impacted the lives of over two hundred thousand women and children through the distribution of the WBFA IMNCH Personal Health Records© nationwide which will ensure efficient delivery, evaluation and monitoring of sustainable, effective public health strategies in maternal newborn and child health. (more…)

“A Common Challenge Requires a Common Purpose”

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

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My thanks to Fashion 4 Development (Evie and Franca), the United Nation’s and Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini for the honor of being invited to this momentous occasion, in welcoming the fashion industry to the Every Woman Every Child effort.

In May 2011 when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited Nigeria, he spoke of the importance of partnership between government, business and civil society, saying ‘when they are united in a tripartite partnership, we can make it’.

I too believe that a common challenge requires a common purpose and it is for that reason that I have embraced the Secretary General’s Call To Action for Maternal Newborn and Child Heath within my Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s Countdown to 2015 Millennium Development Goal Campaign.

To amplify this, The Wellbeing Foundation and I strive to be a catalyst for the Every Woman Every Child effort in Africa to save the lives of 16million women and children globally.  My own personal experience is a testimony to the fact that while there are no socio-economic boundaries reducing the universal challenges hampering the achievement of safe motherhood for all women in Africa, an empowered and educated woman is a health-seeking woman, for herself, her family and her community.  We therefore must connect with women themselves and empower them to effect the change necessary for better outcomes.

On this journey that I’ve been on for over 20 years, the fashion industry has a unique role to play because of:

1. Obvious connection women have to fashion, which present a great opportunity to utilize this channel to communicate with us and thereby mobilize efforts.

2. In Africa women are very much at the forefront of the fashion industry from the young lady creating jewelry in her bedroom to the market women trading traditional fabricsat bustling markets, and the emerging sophistication of contemporary fashion houses particularly in Nigeria. Fashion is an avenue to empower women and enable us to provide socio-economic freedom, which we know has an impact on women and their children’s wellbeing.

I welcome Fashion 4 Development’s commitment to this most important effort of our time and stand ready to partner to create synergies in order to save and improve the lives and wellbeing of every woman and every child.

Wellbeing Foundation Africa Founder Congratulates Thisday Award Recipients

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

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H.E Mrs ToyinSaraki, Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Advisory Board Member of Cherie Blair’s Africa Justice Foundation (AJF), has congratulated the 55 Women of Distinction honoured at the 17th Annual Thisday Awards Event held in Lagos on February 13th 2012.

Speaking from New York where the notable humanitarian and advocate had attended the formal ceremony to receive the highly valued Fashion 4 Development Commitment to the United Nations Every Woman Every Child Effort from Goodwill Ambassador and Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani, Mrs Saraki said that the recognition of the awardees exemplifies the fact that women are successfully leading increasingly influential roles in all facets of society, including business, politics, entrepreneurship, public policy and social development.

“I am so encouraged to see that Nigerian women are engaging at the highest levels of distinction in business, politics and leadership in the 21st century. We have indeed come a long way. The honourees have persevered and excelled in their chosen fields of endeavour and are worthy of double honour, not only because of what they have achieved, but because as women in a world dominated by men, it often takes twice as much time and effort as their male counterparts to attain great heights.”

Mrs Saraki, the former First Lady of Kwara State, congratulated her fellow former colleagues, Their Excellencies Erelu Angela Adebayo of Ekiti State, Chief Mrs. EkiIgbinedion of Edo State and Distinguished Senator Zainab Kure of Niger State and also Kwara’s very own indigenous daughter Hajiya Bola Shagaya a foremost business woman, for their  respective contributions to humanity, particularly in the lives of women and children, while she warmly welcomed the keynote speakers, Cherie Blair QC of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Africa Justice Foundation and Former American President Bill Clinton of the Clinton Global Initiative, in recognition of their sincere dedication towards development in Africa.

The WBF Africa President finally commended Thisday Newspaper and its Publisher, Prince Nduka Obaigbena for the organisation’s stellar role in inspiring effective media focus upon civil society issues, saying “Thisday continues to provide leadership in the media through innovation, creativity and uncommon intelligence, adding transformational texture to our national experience.”

H.E Mrs ToyinSaraki is in New York in her capacity as the leader of the Nigeria Multi-Sector Engagement in support on the United Nations Secretary General’s Every Woman Every Child Effort, which was launched in Nigeria by The Wellbeing Foundation Africa in July 2011.

Yomi Owope, Communications Director, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa. 13-02-2012

 

Evidence Shows that Childbirth Complications Linked to Female Genital Mutilation

Monday, February 6th, 2012

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Ahead of the International Day for Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation marked yearly on February 6th, a review of the evidence by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa Countdown to 2015 MDG Campaign shows that the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria continues to pose great risks for millions of women, young girls and their infants during and after birth.

The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is founded in traditional beliefs about female chastity, initiation into womanhood and even the mistaken belief that it helps delivery of babies. UNICEF estimates that there are 115 to 130 million circumcised women worldwide. In African countries, more than 90 million girls and women over the age of 10 years are estimated to have undergone FGM, and around 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure each year. Nigeria in the past had the highest absolute number of cases of FGM in the world, accounting for about one quarter of the total number of circumcised women. But advocacy, sensitisation and legislation have driven down the numbers in recent years. Nevertheless the practice continues unchecked in many parts of the country, with Oyo and Ebonyi States recording as high as 83% prevalence as recently as 2008.

In the statement in commemoration of this year’s FGM Day, the Foundation affirmed that the risk of dying during childbirth increases greatly for both the mother and the infant if the mother has been genitally mutilated, and that interventions on maternal mortality often do not adequately address the problem of female genital mutilation.

“The World Health Organisation FGM obstetric outcome journal 2010 (a collaborative prospective study in six African countries) has established that women with FGM are significantly more likely than those without FGM to have adverse obstetric outcomes, with a significant number having obstructed labour, postpartum haemorrhage and extended hospital stay. Also, FGM is estimated to lead to extra one or two perinatal deaths per hundred deliveries. It is therefore very essential that FGM is not ignored when addressing the problem of maternal mortality in Africa.”

The weight of evidence has informed the foundation’s position that FGM of any type “is a violation of the human rights of women and girls, with proven psychosexual consequences. It is known to cause blood-borne diseases and infection, including painful menstruation and infertility. The risks are evident in the huge number of trauma cases we witness each year, and its eradication calls for urgent attention from all concerned to put a stop to this painful and gruesome practice.”

The Foundation therefore called on government and all stakeholders in maternal, newborn and child health to pay greater attention to FGM and enforce the corrective measures embarked upon in the past few years in addressing practice.
“Advocacy and sensitization programs must continue and legislations at the federal and state levels outlawing all forms of FGM should be enforced; other gaps that aid in the perpetration of the practice in Africa should be addressed as part of a holistic approach to women’s and children’s health,” the Foundation said.

 

World AIDS Day: The Wellbeing Foundation Adopts the “Getting to Zero” Campaign Theme

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

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With more than 34 million people living with HIV and over 22 million of that number in Africa, the Wellbeing Foundation has adopted the global “Getting to Zero” mission of the World AIDS Campaign ahead of World AIDS Day today. With a direct and forthright theme, the campaign states that by 2015, the world should have, Zero AIDS Related Deaths, Zero New Infections and Zero Discrimination.

The Wellbeing Foundation runs The Positive Lifeline Initiative, a regular care and support program under which people living with HIV/AIDS receive medical and financial support, nutritional and vitamin supplements, including counseling and follow up. The Foundation also works at the front-lines, developing programs for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, making the main focus of its HIV Programs preventive, rather than palliative.

WBF has noted that while unprecedented global attention and intervention efforts have slowed the rate of new HIV infections and made significant difference to the prevalence of the disease in some countries and regions, the total number of people living with HIV continues to rise.

The Wellbeing Foundation has therefore joined the global voice calling for Governments to do the right thing and live up to the financial pledges they have made, otherwise the “Getting to Zero” mission will not happen by 2015 and millions of people will continue to die.

“The 2010 Global AIDS Report by UNAIDS shows that treatment scale-up is beginning to deliver results, both in averting AIDS-related deaths (an estimated 2.5 million since 1995) and in halting  new infections (at their lowest levels since 1997). This is therefore the time for us to increase our efforts to achieve universal access to treatment and build momentum towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (Goal 6) with regards to HIV and AIDS.”

 

 


My PHR Story

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

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Many of the people I have encountered over the years have wondered aloud why I turned my focus to maternal, newborn and child survival. I have had to wander down memory lane to find the most accurate answer.

While I was in hospital with my tiny daughter, praying for her survival and educating myself about how to care for premature babies, I had plenty of time for sober reflection and exploration; plenty of time to THINK. During that period, two events shaped my thoughts, my actions, and my future commitments.
A few days after my own delivery, another premature baby was born; not in that hospital, but as an emergency home birth to a family that lived right there in Obalende. That baby was rushed to the nearest hospital, which happened to be the one I was in and care was willingly provided. The parents were warned however that the care would come at a price—one which the family could not afford. With the help of my husband, I did what I could to assist, and the baby survived. At that time, the issues seemed simple: a small matter of financial sufficiency.
The second event took place a few weeks later when, thankfully, my baby had started to thrive. Another premature baby was born at the hospital but this time, to a very wealthy family. The hospital provided care again, willingly, and money was no object. However, this baby’s health did not improve and the doctors were dissatisfied with its growth. Of course everyone was praying. Finally one of the doctors approached me to ask: “Where did you buy the formula that we were using to feed your baby along with expressed breast milk? Because we think it will help the baby and so we have shown this family the formula, but they have scoured the city looking for it but cannot find any!”
I answered honestly, “I did not buy it. A medical connection abroad recommended it, prescribed it, and sent it to me by courier. I don’t think that one can buy it because the bottles were marked ‘For hospital use only’ but I can ask my contact.”
I had a box or two left over and gladly handed them over to the doctors to give to the baby that needed it.
Pondering on my experience with these two babies, I suddenly realized that knowledge, resources and networking had to go hand in hand to give fragile babies a decent chance of survival.
Mortality is no respecter of social status or wealth or any other man-made index. Universal access to medical advances, proper care in a well-equipped medical facility and ability to give an accurate health history are some of the most important factors in establishing a continuum of care to give women and children the best chance of life.
Humility is important as well. Too many of our medical facilities at home provide the most appropriate treatment out of necessity, and not necessarily the most appropriate treatment indicated! In order to save lives, we need the humility and wisdom to recognize when we cannot adequately treat a case. We must then initiate or request a prompt referral based on our knowledge of whom or what is best equipped for that case. Sometimes this referral may even be within the same medical facility—and I have witnessed this on countless occasions—but a fair degree of knowledge and humility is often required to initiate the process.
I apologize in advance to those who may be offended by my humbly offered opinions but this has been my personal experience, and it forms the bedrock of the work of the Wellbeing Foundation as well as my continued personal commitment to minimizing preventable mortality; particularly in trying to raise the standards of universal access to basic medical provision and lifesaving advances through the development of the Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health Personal Health Records.

Best wishes

Think + Do = Positive Development

www.thewellbeingfoundation.com/phr.php
www.wellbeingfoundationnig.org/programs-our-work/health/the-phr