The streets of New York City will become a runway for Christy Turlington Burns this Sunday, as she’s preparing to slip on her shoes (sneakers, not stilettos) to tackle a marathon. Turlington Burns and several of her friends and colleagues will be teaming up during the race to raise money to support Every Mother Counts, the group she founded to bring attention to maternal health-related causes. Between her training sessions, she found time to create a short film, Every Mother Counts: Obsetric Fistula, which she recently premiered, about a dangerous complication that can occur to moms after childbirth.
After her film debuted at LUNAFEST film festival, Turlington Burns filled us in about her race training, the cause that’s close to her heart and how we can help.
You’re running the ING New York City Marathon to support maternal health. How did you train for the event?
When the opportunity to run in the New York City Marathon came up, I was a three to five-mile jogger. I started increasing my mileage in early August and have done so steadily through my first 21 mile run a few weeks ago.
Do you have a goal in mind for the race?
To finish! Well, I fully expect to finish, but hope to feel good on the other side too. I am hoping to come in under 4:30. I feel strong and ready. What a perfect way to highlight one of the biggest barriers for women accessing health care in a timely manner, which is distance and the lack of transport when emergencies do arise.
What other fit activities do you enjoy?
I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 20 years and it remains my favorite “exercise” even through it is so much more. In recent years, I have tried a few other fitness trends such as Physique 57 and Tracy Anderson.
Turlington Burns recently premiered an important short film at LUNAFEST in New York City. Keep reading to learn more about it and why the topic is so important to her.
So the cause of maternal health is clearly very important and personal to you. Can you tell us more about why you made Every Mother Counts: Obstetric Fistula?
I was so excited to become a mom in 2003 and had a wonderful pregnancy and delivery. But about an hour after I delivered my first child, Grace, I began to hemorrhage due to a complication. The midwife and an obstetrician managed the situation, but I was completely unprepared for what ensued. Although I was fortunate to have survived, not everyone is. In the weeks that followed, I was shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of women die each year during childbirth around the world. But I also learned that 90 percent of these deaths are preventable. This left me needing to learn more about why 1,000 women die every day from largely preventable causes.
While making my first feature-length documentary, No Woman, No Cry, I learned that for every one woman who dies in pregnancy and childbirth, there are 20 more who suffer painful lifelong disabilities such as obstetric fistula. We wanted to shed some light on this particular issue and share the stories of women who have experienced this tragic and preventable condition.
How did you get connected with the LUNAFEST film festival?
A few months ago my friend and producing partner told me about LUNAFEST and we jumped on the opportunity to participate. We decided to submit a short film which we made for our website as part of an educational series. We are delighted that the film was selected to be a part of this festival and it’s an added bonus that the Breast Cancer Fund is also aligned with LUNA. Both of those organizations have similar goals to Every Mother Counts: raising awareness for women’s health issues on a global front.
What do you wish more Americans knew about maternal mortality?
Women still die in childbirth—even in the U.S. In fact, according to Amnesty International, the U.S. is currently ranked 50th in safe motherhood. But at the same time, of the hundreds of thousands of deaths that results from pregnancy and childbirth complications, 99 percent of them occur in the developing world and only 10 countries account for nearly two-thirds of all maternal deaths.
What is the best way people can help?
I believe one’s voice is the most powerful and influential tool out there and can make a difference and combat this growing crisis. If you have a voice, use it, because there are millions of girls and women around the world who don’t have that freedom.
Everyday we are coming up with different ways to help extend the conversation. In tandem with my decision to run the marathon, we launched an initiative calling on supporters everywhere to create their own team and participate in a 5K run/walk in their own town during the official ING New York City Marathon on Sunday while we run.