Christy Turlington Burns: Shining A Light On Maternal Health

May 4, 2011

Christy Turlington Burns is a mom, global maternal health advocate, author, filmmaker, public health student, yogi and model. Her directorial debut, No Woman No Cry, shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including the United States.

Join Amnesty International house parties to watch the film’s broadcast premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network this Saturday, May 7 (the night before Mother’s Day), at 9:30 ET/PT and again on May 8 at 1pm ET/PT.

We spoke with Christy recently about her work to improve maternal health worldwide:

Q: How did you get involved in advocating for maternal health?

A: I became an advocate for maternal health the moment I became a mom. After delivering my first child I began to hemorrhage. My midwife and backing OB managed the situation but a few weeks later I learned that the same complication I had was also the leading cause of maternal death worldwide. I then began to examine maternity care around the world to understand why hundreds of thousands of women die each year when almost all of these deaths are preventable.

Q: Why is a film on maternal mortality so important right now, and can you tell us about the work you’re doing around the movie?

A: The general population is not aware that 1000 women die each day while pregnant or in childbirth but what’s worse is that 90% of these deaths are preventable! I think this is an ideal time to remind people what happens when comprehensive reproductive health services are not accessible, especially as access to these services is more precarious than it has been for a generation. When I first set out to make, “No Woman, No Cry,” I intended it for a mainstream audience because everyday moms, dads and their families have not been a part of the global discussion to date but if we’re going to make a change, they have to be. I hope that audiences who see this film will feel moved to want to get involved and take action today.

Q: Why are preventable deaths due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth a human rights issue? And what can Amnesty International members do to fight them?

A: I believe that health is a human right and that every life has equal value. I also believe that every woman has a right to a safe pregnancy and delivery. When we allow girls and women to die from preventable causes, we are saying that some lives have more value than others. Amnesty International members are powerful. They know that they have a voice and they know how to use it. Now is the time to use our collective voice to tell the world’s leaders that this is unacceptable. For Mother’s Day, we’re partnering with Amnesty to focus on the tragedy of the US statistics. It’s appalling to me that the US ranks 50th in the world in terms of maternal health and so even as we fight this crisis abroad, we also have to make a change here at home.

Q: Thank you for all the work you’re doing for maternal health! Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with this Mother’s Day season?

A: Please watch this film, organize a watch party and then think about ways you can take action for the world’s moms this Mother’s Day. Start by writing those Amnesty Mother’s Day cards! I believe we all have something to contribute and if we each bring our own unique set of skills, we can make lasting change in the lives of families around the world.

Christy’s organization, Every Mother Counts, is partnering with Amnesty International to educate the public on the importance of the Maternal Health Accountability Act, which takes vital steps for maternal health care in the United States by addressing the most urgent recommendations of the Deadly Delivery report. To join us in taking action by writing Mother’s Day action cards at your No Woman No Cry house party.