Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Norway: much colder and fishier than here, but also healthier than us too

Every year around Mother's Day, the nonprofit group Save the Children releases a "Mother's Index" that ranks and reports on the best and worst places in the world for mothers and children. This analysis is based on health, economic and education conditions in 164 countries. Norway takes first place in the rankings (followed by Australia, Iceland and Sweden) while Afghanistan, unsurprisingly, ranks dead last. The US places 31st out of 43 developed countries, behind most western European countries, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

On the surface, of course, these results are nothing to brag about, but it is the details of this report that are the most disturbing. For example:

Should we be proud that the U.S. has the highest rate of lifetime maternal mortality of any industrialized country, performing better only than Moldova, Russia and Albania? This means that among other things, American women are more than 7 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than Irish or Italian women.

Compared to other wealthy countries, the U.S. has the least generous maternity leave policy (taking into consideration both amount of time given and wages paid).

Only 17% of our Congressional seats belong to women. (This number is 43% in Sweden and 45% in Iceland).

American children under 5 also do not fare well in the study. Compared to other developed nations, they are more likely to die and less likely to be enrolled in preschool.

The group even offers some advice on how countries can improve the health of their mothers and children: "Governments and international agencies need to increase funding to improve education levels for women and girls, provide access to maternal and child health care and advance women's economic opportunities". They also offer a specific suggestion to the U.S. and other developed countries: "Governments and communities need to work together to improve education and health care for disadvantaged mothers and children".

Very interesting. I guess this means that our politicians who attack Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, the WIC program etc. know another way to improve women and children's health. After all, America does not tolerate mediocrity. Surely we aspire to more than 31st place, especially concerning something as important as the health of our citizens... right?

Check out the full report here- it has a lot of interesting facts, factoids, and factlets:

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