US Mothers at Higher Risk

Mothers in the United States face a worse risk of maternal death – 1 in 1,800 – than is the case in any other country in the developed world.

According to a new report from Save The Children – the 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report – a woman in the US is ten times more likely to die while pregnant or in giving birth than is a woman in Austria, Belarus or Poland.

“We need to do more to make sure that all mothers and babies have a fair chance of survival and a happy, healthy life – no matter where they live,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. “Save the Children believes that a mother in Somalia, or frankly a mother in America, deserves the same opportunity to thrive as a mother in Norway.”

Of 179 countries given Mothers’ Index Rankings in the report, Number One Norway had high ratings in all five dimensions of maternal and child health and well-being. The US ranks 33rd – behind, among others, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Croatia, Korea and Israel.

Norway came in as the absolute ‘best’ on economic status and was the nation to place in the top 12 on all five indicators –  lifetime risk of death (from age 15) of maternal causes; the country’s under-five mortality rate (expressed per 1000 live births); expected number of years of formal schooling, the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, and the participation of women in national government.

Norway earned its Number One overall ranking because it was consistently high in all five categories.

The report’s principal focus was on the plight – “hidden and often neglected,” an introductory note says – of the urban poor.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, in the introduction to the State of the World’s Mothers 2015, said that “one of the worst places in the world to be a mother is in an urban slum.” Many of those depicted in the report are far below anything imaginable in the United States – begging the question, why does the US rank so poorly where opportunities for mothers and children are concerned? Why does Washington D.C., of all capital cities in high-income countries, have the highest infant mortality rate. (At 6.6 per 1— births, it’s three times the rate of Tokyo or Stockholm.

And even at 33rd place in the overall rankings, the US is followed by 146 countries with markedly worse opportunities for mothers and children.

Last year, the budget for the Administration for Children & Families, an agency of the US Department of Health & Human Services, was $51 billion – the 2nd-largest in the DHHS’s realm. Clearly, it didn’t go far enough.

Meanwhile, the US spent $13 billion in 2014 defending its borders, and untold billions having and often maintaining a military presence in no fewer than 134 countries. And a new estimate says the war against ISIS is costing the US some $40 billion — while mothers here die in childbirth.


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