Christy Turlington Burns is much more than just a pretty face.
The former supermodel has made her directorial debut with the documentary “No Woman, No Cry” and is using her fame to bring to life the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a Bangladesh slum, and a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala.
But she predicts audiences are going to be most shocked to discover the truth about post-natal care right here in the United States. According to her website EveryMotherCounts.org, the United States has a Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 1 in 4,800. In comparison to other developed countries, Canada has a 1 in 11,000 chance of dying, Australia has 1 in 13,300 and 1 in 8,200 in the United Kingdom.
"There are a lot of surprising things in the films; I think most audiences, even internationally, are surprised about the statistics of the U.S. for maternal health. When I’ve shown it in England or Africa, a lot of those countries imagine the U.S would be at the top because we spend so much more money on health care than any other country, so that’s quite shocking," Turlington told us at last weekend’s launch of the Plum Hamptons magazine June issue.
"My aim was also to show people that this is a universal experience and hopefully you can put your feet into the shoes of another woman or a family and understand how critical access to health care is in the time of childbirth or pregnancy."
And the 41-year-old's desire to bring awareness to the issue comes from a place very close to her own heart.
"I had a complication myself when I had my first child 7 years ago and it was managed very seamlessly in a hospital in New York City in a birthing center, but I learned shortly thereafter that it was the number one cause of maternal death," Turlington continued. "Learning that made me want to understand more about the barriers to care around the world that we need to deal with."
Furthermore, the model mom said "No Woman, No Cry" has also prompted discussion about the very prevalent, but often taboo topic of postpartum depression.
"I feel like every woman that I’ve met when they were in these incredibly stressful situations, often with their husbands working somewhere else far away completely unsupported, clearly there are depression issues," she said. "In a poorer society, the last thing anyone is asking about is how she is feeling. I’m finding that it falls of the list because it’s just basic survival. Nutrition is also a huge factor, so when you have women not able to get quality food or an enriched diet that has a huge ripple effect on not only her fetus, but her whole family’s health."
And while the mother-of-two has happily swapped strutting for studying, and is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Public Health at New York's Columbia University, she credits her thirty year career as a fashion superstar for the educational opportunities she has today.
"I have the luxury to be able to go back to school; I’ve gone to two private universities. Without my career I wouldn’t be able to do that. The fact that I’ve traveled the world so much as a model, I’ve always spent extra time in the countries that I have traveled to so I could go deeper and have more of an experience than to just be there for work," Turlington said. "That’s what taught me early on to have a connection to people all over the world and that’s been the best part of my career."
And despite having graced the cover of virtually every high-end fashion magazine over the years, Turlington was still pretty tickled about landing the cover of Plum Hamptons magazine's premiere issue.
"It’s been a long time. So it is fun and I spend my summers out here too so a lot of friends have seen it in the last few days," she added. "It's a quality lifestyle magazine and it’s something that’s been needed out here. So as a consumer and as a person who lives here, it’s nice to have that extra bit of information."