Interview: Lani Crane, Specialist in health and nutrition and international programmes at Save the Children USA

Monday, May 18, 2015

Save the Children recently published its annual State of the World's Mothers' Index, which ranks 179 countries according to data on the health and well-being of mothers and children.

Was it a surprise that Western countries, specifically the UK and USA, failed to rank within the top ten? Why do you think this is?

Given that the UK places 21st on economic status, its overall ranking at the 24th spot is almost in line with expectations based on national wealth. That said, it should and could be doing more for the health of its mothers and children, where it places at the 30th and 28th spot, respectively.

It was surprising and disappointing to see the USA continue its descent in the global rankings, slipping two spots from 31st to 33rd this year. The USA has not kept pace with the progress made by other countries.

That said, while both the USA and UK could be doing better for mums and children, the situation is not nearly as grave as it is in the countries at the bottom of our index, where one in 30 women die of pregnancy related causes and one in eight children don't live to celebrate their fifth birthday.

Why did the UK not perform better on the under-fives mortality rate (4.6 per 1,000 births)?

The UK places 21st in the world in terms of national wealth, but 28th on under-five mortality and 30th on lifetime risk of maternal death. One could say the UK is under-performing on expectations based on national wealth.

Nearly 40 per cent of all under-five deaths in the UK are due to pre-term birth complications, compared to only 13 per cent in Sweden.

The Nordic countries performed very well overall. Do you think other countries could learn from them?

Norway, Finland and Denmark are the only countries to place in the top 15 across the board. Iceland and Sweden place in the top 15 on four of the five indicators (maternal health, children's well-being, educational status, economic status, political status); they are the only other countries to do this, and they continue to make progress.

Many other countries don't perform nearly as well on maternal or child health. The average lifetime risk of maternal deaths in the top five Nordic countries is less than one in 13,000. The risk of maternal death is roughly twice this in the UK (one in 6,900).

Differences in the quality of maternal healthcare may have something to do with the variation in rates, but more investigation is needed.

  • Read the full report from Save the Children here

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