What I can tell you from the maternal and child health summit

... not much, thanks to the Prime Minister's Office

During today’s launch of Stephen Harper’s high-profile maternal and child health summit in Toronto, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete turned and called the Prime Minister a “champion” of maternal and newborn health. Canada has invested heavily in the cause, the Harper government’s signature development issue, and the event seemed like a good-news story just waiting to be written.

If only the Prime Minister’s Office would allow journalists into the summit.

Instead, the PMO banned reporters from two sessions. The first was focused on immunization and was moderated by Dr. Bruce Aylward, Canadian lead of the World Health Organization’s polio eradication program.  (While I can’t tell you what he said today, here’s what he told me when I interviewed him earlier this year.) The second session focused on nutrition.

It’s no secret that the Harper government’s transparency and accountability has been criticized even on this file, most recently in The Lancet. Even still, the tight control was a surprise. Journalists were ushered to not one, but two, media staging rooms before being allowed to enter the event space. We were also advised we are not welcome to Thursday’s afternoon sessions on newborn and maternal health.

I am a science and health reporter. Despite the limited access, I’ll be tweeting and reporting from the health summit over the next two days. Check back here for my coverage.