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Health & Parenting

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Salma Hayek: Mom on a Mission

Motherhood inspired Salma Hayek to take on one more high-profile role: saving women and children in Africa.

Tetanus in developing countries continued...

Hayek even helped vaccinate some of the women who had come to receive their immunizations. “It’s not brain surgery. You just go in at an angle!” she says. “I was impressed that these young women, many of them really girls, were so eager to get this vaccine. When I was 15, if somebody wanted to give me a shot, I’d run away. But they line up for it … because it’s for their babies.”

Sierra Leone is not the only country where tetanus afflicts mothers and children. According to the World Health Organization, the disease -- which is the 5th leading cause of childhood mortality around the world -- kills 128,000 children annually (down from 800,000 in the mid-1980s), which is a testament to the power of the neonatal tetanus vaccine. “We have made dramatic progress,” says François Gasse, MD, a senior project officer at UNICEF, “but it remains an unacceptable cause of death as it is the easiest to prevent and affects the poorest populations of the least developed countries.”

(The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 million children worldwide under age 5 die every year from diseases that could be prevented by routine vaccinations such as those most American children receive at their regular visits to the pediatrician. These diseases include: pneumonia (leading cause of death in children younger than age 5, with 1.7 million children dying of it annually); rotavirus (causes severe diarrhea and kills 500,000 children worldwide annually); measles (380,000 deaths annually); and pertussis (270,000 deaths annually).

Salma Hayek’s life changes

Since the birth of Valentina, Hayek personally understands that mindset. She’s still an ambitious force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry -- Entertainment Weekly praised her as one of the “25 Smartest People in TV” in December 2008 -- but because of her daughter, she’s made some changes in how she looks at her career.

“I haven’t had the guts to do something violent or dark. I’m not there,” she says. “I actually canceled a movie. They said, ‘You can really move yourself as an actress with this role and go to a really dark place.’ I said, I don’t want to go there! Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but right now, I want easy movies that I can take my child along to. I want uplifting movies for the world.”

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