Paula Davis-Olwell


Paula Davis-Olwell 

Paula Davis-Olwell is an independent researcher whose work has focused on infant care and feeding and maternal/child health in Africa, and more recently on mental illness in the US. Davis-Olwell’s current research interests are comparative health systems and the anthropology of aid and development. Davis-Olwell has taught courses on African health systems, medical anthropology, health policy and politics, health disparities, and medical ethics. She lived in Uganda and taught courses on population studies and reproductive health policy from 1993 to 1996 at Makerere University. She holds a PhD in public health and anthropology from Johns Hopkins University.


Women and Children First? How missing the target (MDG 4-5) may lead to improvements in maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa

Failure to achieve MDG 4-5 (maternal and child health) in sub-Saharan Africa has revealed serious contradictions of the MDG process: MDG 1 (reduce poverty and hunger) was achieved early, yet growth stunting in children increased by one third; child mortality declined while neonatal mortality increased; the maternal mortality ratio decreased but remains twice the world average. Although individual, community, and macroeconomic level factors that impact MDG 4-5 were identified, researchers concluded that health system characteristics imparted the greatest effect. These health system effects may be the Millennium endeavor’s most important contribution toward improving global health, thus reviving public health debates on the structure of health systems in poor countries—comprehensive primary health care (PHC) vs. selective PHC, or integrated vs. vertical health systems. 

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