Canada pledges huge support for maternal and child health

It was forty years ago when Alan Bocking and Margaret Chan studied medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Their career paths went successfully in different directions, Bocking as a lead researcher in maternal and newborn health in London then Toronto, and Chan overseeing the SARS crisis in Hong Kong and then being appointed Director General of the World Health Organization.

On Thursday 29th May, their paths came together at the Prime Minister’s Summit on “Saving every woman every child” in Toronto. They celebrated the announcement of $3.5 billion for 2015-2020 towards improving the health of mothers and children, extending the current Muskoka Agreement that has seen Canada and other countries make major inroads to reducing mortality and morbidity in women and their newborns. “Dr. Chan is an icon in international health, and stressed how proud she is of her Western training”, said Bocking, whose father was Western’s Dean of Medicine from 1965-1978.

Western was also represented at the event by David Cechetto, Professor and Director of Rebuilding Health in Rwanda, Melanie Katsivo, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Director of Global Health, and Gregor Reid, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Lawson Scientist. Reid was excited by the event which featured Prime Minister Harper and other Canadian dignitaries, Melinda Gates, Queen Rania and Princess Zeid of Jordan, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania. Reid met with President Kikwete and his entourage and discussed the Western Heads East initiative in his country.

“He was extremely friendly and happy that we are engaged with the ‘yogurt mamas’ and others in bringing health-promoting foods to Mwanza and beyond. He is a strong supporter of maternal and infant health research” added Reid.  
Reid also met with Dr. Makur Kariom, Undersecretary for the Minister of Health of South Sudan, who was keen to learn more about WHE. South Sudan has 37 million cows and 12 million people and Dr. Kariom felt the concept would be ideal for the country. Reid will invite him to a scientific meeting in Nairobi. Kenya on July 30th where a Canadian, Indian and African team is planning a clinical trial on probiotics for prevention of neonatal sepsis, following success of this intervention in India.

“It was such an exciting summit, and I was able to extend our appreciation in person to Galen Weston Jr., President of Loblaw, for his family’s major donations to our research at Lawson, specifically through Dr. Jeremy Burton’s work under the Miriam Burnett Chair in Urological Sciences. His vision and appreciation for the research we are doing on the human microbiome and probiotic foods was laudable and illustrates the importance of engagement with leaders in business”