Maternal and child health report from the Save the Children

Andy’s and my largest charitable contributions go to Save The Children. The day after Mother’s Day, they released their rankings of maternal and child health prospects by country. Download the full report here.

Their maternal health status index is composed of:

a) lifetime risk of maternal death;
b) percent of women using contraception;
c) overall female life expectancy;

Additional measures include:
a) Expected years of formal education;
b) Maternity leave benefits
c) Ratio of estimated female to male wage rates.
d) Participation of women in national politics (percentage of seats).

I might quibble with that last one, as there are many means of political engagement other than the national level, but so far, so reasonable.

For children, the index is somewhat simpler: under-five mortality, elementary school education, and secondary education.

There are several essays worth reading in the report, particularly those on progress in Malawi (horray!!!) and a selection from Rep. Donald Payne and Colonel John Agogliab, both of whom write about how American investment in health and environmental security make all the difference in real security.

However, despite America’s wealth and ability to help other countries, out of 164 countries, the USA ranks 31st.

This is from the FAQ:

One of the key indicators used to calculate well- being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal mortality. The United States’ rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 – the highest of any industrialized nation. In fact, only three Tier I developed countries – Albania, the Russian Federation and Moldova – performed worse than the United States on this indicator. A woman in the U.S. is more than 7 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her risk of maternal death is 15-fold that of a woman in Greece.

Similarly, the United States does not do as well as most other developed countries with regard to under-5 mortality. The U.S. under-5 mortality rate is 8 per 1,000 births. This is on par with rates in Latvia. Forty countries performed better than the U.S. on this indicator. At this rate, a child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Nor- way, Slovenia, Singapore or Sweden to die before reaching age 5.

Only 58 percent of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool – making it the fifth lowest country in the developed world on this indicator.

The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy – both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid – of any wealthy nation.

The United States is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Only 17 percent of congressional seats are held by women, compared to
45 percent in Sweden and 43 percent in Iceland.

Afghanistan, quelle surprise, ranks last. One wonders: is it morally worse to be a poor and battle-torn country where woman are treated miserably, or a tremendously wealthy country that could radically alter its own ranking–but doesn’t–but where women are much better off than in many other places?