Christy Turlington needs no introduction. After four years of tirelessly raising awareness for maternal health through her organization Every Mother Counts, we were humbled to sit down with the supermodel-advocate for this no-holds-barred Q&A.
What inspires you to have this passion for motherhood + health?
I’m inspired by what is possible. When girls and women are healthy, informed and supported then the role of motherhood is an entirely different experience. My wish is for more of us to have that experience.
What was your ultimate goal in creating Every Mother Counts?
I experienced a complication after delivering my daughter and that opened my eyes to a global tragedy that I had no idea about. I learned that hundreds of thousands of girls and women die every year around the world from similar complications as the one I endured and survived. I then began a journey that included making a documentary film called No Woman, No Cry to explore the barriers women face around the world when in need of basic and life saving maternal healthcare. I knew when I completed the film in 2010 that that was not the end, rather the beginning of something much bigger. That's when I decided to start Every Mother Counts, a non-profit working to reduce the number of women who die from preventable pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. We do that by educating and engaging the public about an issue they likely don't know is such a problem, yet almost everyone is sympathetic to once they do. Our main goal is to inspire individuals who are moved by this universal issue to take action. We believe actions speak louder than words but by putting our voices and actions together we can generate resources that will improve access critical care. By sharing stories and through product partnerships and educational events we hope to reach wider audiences and inspire them to get engaged. 100% of funds we raise support programs that improve access to maternal healthcare in the U.S., Haiti, Malawi, Indonesia, Uganda, India and Democratic Republic of Congo.
99% of the nearly 300,000 pregnancy related deaths occur in developing countries. What steps can we take here in the U.S. to combat those statistics?
Almost all of these deaths are preventable. Educating the public about this global issue is just the beginning. Letting more people know that we already know how to prevent these senseless deaths. We are not waiting for a cure. Pregnancy is not a disease yet 15% of pregnancies result in a complication. By ensuring that more women are healthy before, during and after childbirth we can minimize the risk for complications and be better prepared in an event that requires emergency obstetric care. Here in the US, we lose two women per day and half of those deaths are preventable. There are nearly 2 million near deaths that leave women feeling traumatized afterward. We can do so much more to improve care here as well.
It has been 4 years since you started Every Mother Counts. What has been the biggest challenge in starting the organization?
Every Mother Counts has evolved a lot since 2010 and I hope it continues to. As we grow and expand our reach our role may change. I want for us to stay nimble and remain flexible because oftentimes when organizations grow quickly they become bureaucratic and that really hinders the experience for the supporters and our ability to impact lives in the most meaningful way possible. I look forward to a day when our service is no longer necessary and every mother and family is healthy and able to thrive.
What is the biggest challenge we are facing when it comes to reproductive rights?
Reproductive rights are human rights and human rights are reproductive rights. Having access to every service that would ensure one’s health and safety should not only be for the privileged. Policies that restrict access to these services is harmful to everyone, particularly those with the least options.
Tell us more about your November 13 charity event in New York and what you are hoping to achieve.
We are always looking for fresh ways to educate new audiences about what we do and keep our existing supporters engaged. We hope to inspire a slightly younger and broader audience about an issue that they too can contribute to.
You can learn more about Christy's work with Every Mother Counts here.