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Global Issues: Julie Smolyansky Runs for Maternal Health

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Global Issues—On a hot day in Bangladesh, two young women ride through the bustling republic of Bangladesh. Both successful American career women, they've been brought together and propelled by the fact that they are also both mothers, and passionate about helping mothers in developing countries. One woman, former supermodel Christy Turlington, launched Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support for global maternal and child health. The other woman, Julie Smolyansky, is CEO of Lifeway Foods, an 80-million-dollar health food products manufacturing company. As they ride along, what do they discuss? Running.

Running is something which Julie had once done everything possible to avoid. Yet, somehow, little by little, it had become her passion, a vehicle through which she connected with Central Park, life, and other people. And as they decided in that car in Bangladesh, it would become another vehicle by which they could spread awareness of the deplorable state of maternal health services provided in many countries, and of the "team effort" needed to improve it. Christy invites Julie to run with the Every Mother Counts team in the November 2011 New York marathon.

Having given birth to her first child via c-section under duress, and having seen first-hand the scarce and unsanitary conditions in which many women labored and too often didn't survive, Julie knows it is something she has to do. Indeed, she's good at it. So, she trains.

She is preparing to run on November 6 with the Every Mother Counts team because, as she says, "maternal health is not just a women's issue. It's a person's issue, and thus a societal issue. We've chosen to run because often distance is the biggest barrier to a woman and her family getting the care they need. We hope to not only increase awareness for the cause but to also make the vital connection for people that so many pregnant women live far from health services around the world and that distance does make a difference. Simply put, we want to run so that others don't have to."

Julie will run to raise money so that more women can either have a skilled health worker attending if they must give birth at home or have transportation to get to a health clinic or hospital, and have the drugs, blood banks, and surgical equipment necessary if a caesarean section is required. These are basic, simple things, in and of themselves. Julie's running is a simple thing, in and of itself, but it grows exponentially in power when combined with the efforts of her team members, and with the pledges of people who support them.

So Julie works to help span the gap between where maternal health is globally and where it needs to be, by doing something she loves. That is, in the end, how the best service is done, as part of a team and growing out of things we're already good at and enjoy.

What are great ways to raise money for those in need? What can you do to help other mothers around the globe get the care that they need?

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