After enduring a complication during her own childbirth nearly 12 years ago, Christy Turlington Burns was inspired to shed light on the maternal health challenges that affect millions of women around the world every year. Consider how, according to the United Nations Population Fund, a woman dies every two minutes from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth. After directing and producing her first documentary film on the topic, No Woman, No Cry, Turlington Burns founded the non-profit organization Every Mother Counts five years ago. She and her team of 10 work to raise funds and support maternal health programs with the ultimate goal of making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mom, everywhere.
What is your biggest inspiration to grow the organization?
There are hundreds of thousands of deaths related to maternal health every year that are preventable. That’s a pretty significant number, and there are not a lot of causes I know of that have such an upside. It’s something that people relate to, and there’s a lot that can be done, which is why a lot of our supporters are so excited to get involved.
How does running a marathon tie into your mission?
The best way to reduce maternal mortality is to improve maternal health in general. So any activity that allows people to improve their own health while helping others, like running for a cause, seems like a natural connection. The distance of a marathon is also significant because in many parts of the world five kilometers is the average distance that a woman has to walk to get prenatal care, and 26.2 miles is the average distance a woman would have to be transported if she had an emergency.
What’s a marker of the organization’s success for you?
So many of the companies I worked with over the years as a model are now supporting Every Mother Counts. We had a great partnership with Calvin Klein last year, and Maybelline has always been so supportive. It’s really great to see my work come full circle.
How can people support the mission of Every Mother Counts?
It’s really just about spreading the word. We do a lot of events and documentary film screenings that people can join in on to get educated. We partner with many brands on products that support maternal health. We have collaborations with TOMS and Citizens of Humanity, and we’re about the launch a diaper bag with Rebecca Minkoff. They’re all products that are created to make moms’ lives easier, and allow them to do what they should do best, which is provide care and protection for their families. We also do social campaigns throughout the year, like #WhatIsPossible.