Health care for women and children is at the heart of United Methodist Women today, and has been since the organization was founded in the 1800’s. In 1869, Dr. Clara Swain was sent to Bareilly, India, to provide quality medical care to women. She has been called the "pioneer woman physician in India,” as well as the "first fully accredited woman physician ever sent out by any missionary society into any part of the non-Christian world."
Our foremothers made the choice to act to save women’s lives. They chose to build hospitals and clinics, to train women and girls to serve as doctors and nurses, and to send missionaries to initiate the work.
Today, United Methodist Women continues to support the health and family needs of women and children around the globe. Women are still dying in childbirth, children continue to die from preventable diseases, and many communities have no access to healthcare. From Latin America to Africa to Asia, United Methodist Women works with women worldwide to address:
- Access to healthcare
- Educational opportunities in medical fields
- Child protection
- Crisis ministries for women who are victims of violence at home or during periods of war and conflicts
- Reproductive health – family planning, cancer screening, healthy childbirth
- Advocacy for equity in law and services for women and children
- Informal educational workshops on healthy living for teens at risk, lactating mothers who are HIV-positive, mothers who need new ideas on nutrition, and basic health, hygiene and disease prevention
- Trauma and mental health counseling
In the U.S., a number of community centers in our network of national mission institutions provide maternal health services to improve access to care for underserved populations. Services include:
- Pre-natal and postpartum care
- Baby supplies
- Parenting support
- Shelter and legal services
- Health care
Many of our deaconesses and home missioners live their calling to ministries of love, justice and service by working as health care professionals. They work as:
- Parish nurses
- Research nurses
- Community health directors
- Volunteer coordinators
National Seminar 2015: Maternal Health Plenary
At National Seminar, we screened the film “When the Bough Breaks.” The 7 part documentary series can be found at
www.unnaturalcauses.org. Watch the trailer below for a glimpse into the issue in the U.S.
The Rev. Dr. Shirley Fleming and Rev. Dr. Kirsten Peachey co-direct the Chicago-based Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation
. They were instrumental in the planning and facilitation of the National Seminar maternal health plenary. Visit their website for resources at chicagofaithandhealth.org
Janine Hill, Executive Director of Everthrive Illinois presented as well during our plenary. Visit the organization's website for additional resources at
Dr. Richard David, head of the NICU at Stroger Hospital, part of the Cook County Health and Hospital System presented in the plenary. His work inspired a spontaneous public action on the parts of some of our National Seminar participants and prayers of solidarity from others. Members joined Dr. David at a hospital board meeting the following morning to speak out against the closure of the pediatric department. UMW have continued to partner with him and others in the Chicago area through local UMW leadership, many of whom attended National Seminar, in the ongoing campaign to save Stroger Hospital’s pediatric department.