I was in Moscow in May with leaders from the United States obstetrical and neonatology communities and their Russian counterparts who had all gathered to discuss best practices and current issues in maternal and infant health care. The occasion was the US-Russia Forum: Bilateral Collaboration to Improve Women’s and Infants’ Health, a conference conducted under the umbrella of the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission’s maternal and child health working group which fosters collaboration between the two countries on this topic. The forum was organized by USAID Russia’s Institutionalizing Best Practices in Maternal and Child Health (IBP-MCH) project, implemented by John Snow, Inc. and its Russian partner, the Institute for Family Health, and drew about 250 participants from all over the Russian Federation, as well as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The highlight of the conference was the signing of a collaboration agreement by Dr. James Breeden, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Academician Gennady Sukhikh, Director of the Kulakov Federal Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology. The Kulakov Center is the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s policy and research arm on MCH issues. The agreement marked the culmination of a series of exchanges since 2008, facilitated by the project, between ACOG and Russian experts in maternal and child health (MCH) from around the country.
The depth of the collaboration between the American and Russian partners was evidenced by a dozen US experts associated with ACOG—several of whom traveled on private funds—who presented the best evidence and US practices to reduce maternal mortality, prevent preterm birth, screen and treat women’s cancers, current trends in contraceptive use and other topics. Most of the presentations went hand-in-hand with presentations by Russian experts and the two-way dialogue triggered many questions and a great deal of discussion.
The four-year IBP-MCH project has been institutionalizing evidence-based practices in maternal and infant care that USAID, through JSI and the Institute for Family Health, introduced and has been promoting in Russia since 1999. We have seen tremendous advances in maternal and neonatal care in Russia in that time period. It is clear that USAID’s targeted support in-country has been a great success and has had a significant impact on improving client-centered care and contributing to reduced morbidity and mortality.