Sunday, June 16, 2024

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark is a leader in the fight to expand health care to women and children. Among her many efforts include the 2022 introduction of the Babies Act, which combats the country’s maternal mortality crisis, noting that limited health care access has resulted in “skyrocketing rates in the United States for infant and maternal mortality,” with 60 percent of those deaths being “absolutely preventable.”

The maternal mortality crisis is not limited to the United States. According to the World Health Organization, “almost 95 percent of all maternal deaths occurred in low- and lower-middle-income countries in 2020.” As both the Democratic whip and as a champion of women and children worldwide, Clark is well positioned to expand her work to the global scale.

One way in which Clark can leverage her leadership is through advocating for increasing the United States Agency for International Development’s maternal and child health budget to $1.15 billion.

In 2021 alone, the agency helped 91 million women and children access essential – and often life-saving – health services. This funding pool includes contributions to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has helped immunize more than 1 billion children. An increase of just $50 million in the 2025 fiscal year would allow Gavi to reach millions more children with vaccinations and regain lost ground in vaccine coverage.

During her time in congress, Clark has worked tirelessly on the principle that health care is a human right – especially for those marginalized by gender, race and economic status. Boosting the funding levels of these programs is one of the best options to combat maternal health care inequity, which disproportionately affects women and children in poorer global south countries. 

Clark’s Massachusetts 5th Congressional district is one of the wealthiest in the country. It has the power to combat maternal mortality and deliver this human right to the most vulnerable mothers around the world.

Brian Raftrey, Garfield Street, Cambridge

The writer volunteers with Partners in Health Engage, a global health nonprofit in Boston.