I caught up with supermodel Christy Turlington Wednesday night as she walked from the Andra Hotel over to the Cinerama Theater for the Seattle screening of her documentary on the global problem of maternal deaths and disabilities caused in childbirth: “No Woman No Cry.”
Turlington met with a number of local luminaries and experts on matters of global health, like the UW’s Chris Murray (who minutes before closed out a major global health meeting. See Horton post below), at a VIP reception sponsored by the World Affairs Council and the Washington Global Health Alliance.
Didn’t have much time, but I asked her two questions:
- Is the increasingly common practice of having celebrities champion causes (like Charlie Sheen going to help Sean Penn’s philanthropic work in Haiti) actually a symptom of our culture’s misplaced values?
- Does the high-profile attention given to maternal health as the cause célèbre of global health send the wrong message — that the primary concern for women is their reproductive ability, as opposed to health overall?
I was somewhat disappointed to discover that she was very friendly, well-spoken and gracious despite my attempt to get her to display the kind of behavior more expected of a supermodel. Here’s an audio clip of me chasing down Christy Turlington on the streets of Seattle.
Basically, Turlington said, yes, she thinks some celebrities who get involved in causes do it for the wrong reasons and without a lot of knowledge. But if it brings more attention to an issue, that’s a positive.
And no, she didn’t think focusing on maternal health diminishes the broader cause of women’s health. Rather, Turlington explained, it’s central to improving health services for women because pregnancy is often the only time a woman in a poor community ever sees a health worker.
Oh, and the documentary film (which has its TV premier May 7) is very moving and a good overview of the massive problem faced by women all around the world.
Turlington, who studied for a masters in public health at Columbia University and has launched the organization Every Mother Counts, spoke Wednesday of her own difficulties in childbirth, of her longtime personal interest in health issues and of the need for everyone to become involved in reducing maternal deaths and disability worldwide.