Maternal and child health topic at UMW Annual Meeting

The Conference UMW gathered at First UMC in Bangor, ME, for their annual meeting. See more photos in the gallery at right.

October 24, 2017

Maternal and child health was the topic at the New England Conference United Methodist Women’s Annual Meeting on Oct. 21, 2017 in Bangor, ME.
Some 95 UMW members and others gathered at First UMC for a day of worship, business and learning.
Guest speaker this year was Mollie James-Vickery, UMW Executive for Children, Youth, and Family Advocacy and a United Methodist Deaconess, who spoke about maternal and child health both in the U.S. and around the world.
James-Vickery offered some sobering statistics on the rates of maternal and infant mortality – both around the globe and here in the United States.
Worldwide, some 290,000 women die each year from complications of pregnancy or childbirth; each year, 3 million newborns die.
Delays in women seeking help, in reaching a healthcare facility, and receiving appropriate care once they arrive all contribute to the mortality rate for women around the world, James-Vickery said. A lack of infrastructure and poor access to family planning resources are significant factors.
And while those numbers are striking, women in the U.S. are also at risk.
Forty-nine countries have a lower rate of maternal death than the United States. The U.S., James-Vickery said, is
Mollie James-Vickery
at the bottom of the industrialized world, and there are several developing countries with better mortality rates.
Here in the U.S., 34,000 women die each year in childbirth; that’s one every 15 minutes. And African American women are at even greater risk.
No matter their economic or educational background, James-Vickery said, African American women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than whites and other minorities.
“Studies show this has to do with a lifetime cumulative stress of living in a racist system,” James-Vickery said. “What we don’t fully understand is what that does to a body over years.”
“Friends,” she said. “We have to do something about this” by working to undo the legacy of racism and white supremacy.
James-Vickery said the UMW’s goal is to “give members the tools to engage locally with the agencies doing the work, and spread the word” about this and many other issues. UMW is engaged in direct service as well as advocacy and education, she said.
One resource for learning more about the effects of racism on maternal health is a PBS documentary Unnatural Causes … Is Inequality Making Us Sick? James-Vickery pointed to more resources for how to engage in advocacy that can be found on the UMW and General Board of Church and Society websites.

This year’s meeting included an interactive skit about the founding of what would become the UMW, and highlighted its roots in seeking to improve women’s health. In 1869, Mrs. William Butler and Mrs. Edwin Parker, wives of missionaries to India, spoke to a group of eight women in Boston. Women could not be treated by male doctors and schooling was almost non-existent. The women who were present organized the Methodist Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, and later that same year sent Isabella Thoburn, an educator, and Dr. Clara Swain, physician, to India.
UMW members also took care of business during the gathering – approving their 2018 budget and installing the slate of officers.
The annual meeting is also a time for recognizing the service of members. Mission Today honorees and Reading Program Awardees were acknowledged, and eight UMW members were honored with Special Mission Recognition pins. This year’s honorees are: Sharon Meade Corley, RISEM; Ruther Sterns Shepardson, Northern Maine; June Carter, Metro Boston Hope; Jan Osborn, Mid-Maine; Linda Howe, Vermont; Dorothy (Debbie) A Alberini, New Hampshire; Margaret Watson, Central MA, and Tammy Sitton, Tri-State.
The next NE UMW Annual Meeting will be Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. The location has not yet been selected. Learn more about the UMW in New England.
The next UMW Assembly will be May 18-20, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. The theme is “The Power of Bold.”