In 2005 Turlington began working with the international humanitarian organization CARE and has since become their Advocate for Maternal Health. She is also an Ambassador for Product Red.
After suffering complications in her own 2003 childbirth, and upon learning that over 500,000 women die each year during childbirth (of which 90% of the deaths are preventable), Turlington was inspired to pursue a Master's degree in Public Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
Turlington visited Swaziland in May 2007 on behalf of Product Red, and El Salvador and Peru in 2005 and 2008, respectively, on behalf of CARE. Her involvement with CARE was influenced by her mother, Elizabeth, who has been a longtime CARE supporter through her former flight attendants’ organization, World Wings. The FEMME project, a coming together of CARE, Columbia University, and local government, brings health-care practitioners together to find better methods of serving the large number of women needing assistance who are too intimidated to seek help in a clinic or traditional hospital.
In September 2010, Turlington participated in a CARE Learning Tour to Ethiopia to investigate the work being done to reduce maternal deaths.
Turlington currently serves on the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council, and as an advisor to the Harvard School of Public Health Board of Dean’s Advisors, She is a member of White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Mother’s Day Every Day.
An ex-smoker whose father died of lung cancer, Turlington is an anti-smoking activist.
Turlington made her directorial debut on the 2010 documentary film No Woman, No Cry. The 60 minute documentary profiles the status of maternal health and focuses on four cases: from Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the United States. The film made its world premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in the United States, and the U.S. television broadcast premiere aired on the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on May 7, 2011. The documentary earned Turlington a nomination for the Do Something With Style Award from the VH1 Do Something Awards.
Concurrent with the debut of her documentary No Woman, No Cry, Turlington launched Every Mother Counts (EMC), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Every Mother Counts informs, engages, and mobilizes new audiences to take actions and raise funds that support maternal health programs around the world. EMC currently supports programs in Haiti, Uganda, Malawi, Indonesia, and the United States.
Turlington completed her first New York City Marathon in 2011, running with Team Every Mother Counts to raise awareness for maternal and child health. She also ran the 2013 ING NYC Marathon with Team EMC and 2013 Hood to Coast Relay, which is featured in her documentary film, Every Mile, Every Mother.
The charity released a short film series entitled Giving Birth in America some-time a little before May 2015.
Every Mother Counts is a compilation album that was released in 2011 exclusively to Starbucks, with a proportion of the proceeds to be donated to CARE and the Every Mother Counts organisation to support its maternal health care programs in coffee growing countries worldwide.
Every Mother Counts 2012 is a compilation album that was released in 2012 in partnership with Starbucks. U.S. $8 from the sale of each CD in participating Starbucks stores during 2012 is "to be given in support of Every Mother Counts".
In 2015, Turlington signed an open letter which the ONE Campaign had been collecting signatures for; the letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before a main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.
She was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
In 2000, Turlington met actor, director, and writer Edward Burns at a Hamptons party, and by the end of the year they were engaged. In 2002 and just months after buying a New York property together, they decided to split up. The couple reunited and were married in June 2003. Despite numerous erroneous media reports, Turlington was not given away by her good friend Bono. Bono attended the San Francisco wedding, but Turlington said, "[Bono] was there, of course, but I gave myself away. I mean, I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time. Eddie met me halfway down the aisle." Burns and Turlington have two children, Grace (born 2003) and Finn (born 2006). Turlington's sister Kelly is married to Edward's brother Brian Burns.
Turlington began smoking at 13 and was smoking a pack a day by age 16. At age 26, she quit smoking. In 2000 at age 31, when undergoing a lung scan to raise awareness about current technology, she was diagnosed with early-stage emphysema.
Turlington is a practitioner of yoga, specifically a type of yoga known as Jivamukti. Turlington has practiced yoga since 1987. Within an article published April 15, 2001 she stated she practiced three times a week, during the morning time. She credits yoga with bringing her closer to her Catholic faith.
She is the author of the book Living Yoga: Creating A Life Practice, first published in 2002, is now within a third edition (2002, 2003, 2005). The 2002 text has a foreword by Robert Thurman. Turlington was involved in the editing of the January–February 2001 edition of Yoga Journal.
She has run four marathons during her life (April 2015), including the London marathon, her personal best is 3 hours and 46 minutes. Her first marathon was run during 2011 within New York City. Part of her training for the London Marathon, which she ran during 2015, was a half-marathon run, within Tanzania. She trained using the Apple Watch during 2015 (prior to the public release of the watch). Prior to her first marathon, Turlington was running distances of 3 to 5 miles a day, "a few times a week", a pattern of running typical for her for periods throughout her life.