OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates are urging the world to keep the issue of maternal, newborn and child health as a development priority.

It’s a cause Harper has championed for years alongside the American computer pioneer and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates came to Ottawa today to discuss with Harper the progress that has been made on improving the health of mothers, infants and children in recent years.

They agree more needs to be done.

Harper says Canada plans new investments to improve access to vaccines for mothers and children, with an emphasis on polio and tetanus immunization.

In June 2010, Harper persuaded world leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka to focus on maternal and child health and has contributed billions to the cause.

“Canada’s top development priority remains eliminating the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children in developing countries,” Harper said in a statement.