International Women's Day: Former First Daughter Highlights Global Health Corps

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 10:16 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Barbara Bush, the daughter of former President George W. and Laura Bush, honored mothers on International Women's Day Friday by sitting down with a fellow from the Global Health Corps program she helped co-found to discuss how the non-profit is working to support traditionally disempowered groups of women.

Global Health Corps, created in 2009 by the former first daughter and her twin sister Jenna, aims to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build a movement for health equity. The organization pairs talented young professionals from the United States and abroad to work in year-long fellowships with organizations serving poor communities in East Africa and the United States.

Before founding Global Health Corps, Barbara Bush worked for Red Cross Children's Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, and previously interned for UNICEF in Botswana.

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To commemorate International Women's Day, Bush conducted a question-and-answer interview with Elizabeth Sahner, who works with mothers and children in the Bronx as a Global Health Corps fellow with the Children's Health Fund.

"As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's remember to reach across borders and silos to increase health access and improve health outcomes for women around the world," Bush wrote in the interview, which ran on the Huffington Post website Friday. "Elizabeth and the women of GHC are pioneers of collaboration and innovation in global health and I'm proud to work side by side with them every day."

Here are some highlights from Bush's question-and-answer session with Sahner:

Question: What made you apply to Global Health Corps and why are you interested in working on these issues?

Answer: After college I spent a year teaching English at a university in Bogotá, Colombia as a Fulbright grantee. This was the experience of a lifetime, but while living, traveling, and twice being hospitalized there, I began to question how such a severely strained health care system could adequately serve the country's most marginalized families living in extreme poverty. Poor mothers and their young children are particularly systematically excluded from access to consistent care. Knowing that families in the tri-state area faced parallel inequities, I applied to Global Health Corps in the hope that I could help make a difference close to home.

Q: What have you learned about women's health in your work with the Children's Health Fund in the Bronx?

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A: This work has shown me that the wellbeing and resiliency of mothers and children is contingent on holistic care. Whether it means giving personalized breastfeeding support, providing training on discipline strategies, or addressing what fatherhood means, interventions should stretch far beyond what we think of as a typical doctor's visit. I've witnessed how this approach fosters strong bonds between mothers and reinforces the health center's role as community-building presence.

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