A worldwide study shows that the best place to give birth is Norway. Afghanistan comes in last — but the United States isn't doing too well either.
According to the AP, the study, conducted yearly around Mother's Day by Save the Children, gave Norway the highest marks for its low maternal and child mortality rate, excellent medical care, and generous maternity leave. Norwegian moms get a year of paid leave, have an average life expectancy of 85, and have only a 1 in 175 chance of losing a child before the age of five. Also, medical professionals are present at almost all their births. Contrast that with Afghanistan, where just 14% of births are supervised by a professional, life expectancy for women is just 45, and one in five kids doesn't reach his or her fifth birthday. Of the situation there, John Agoglia of Politico writes,
Women in villages where U.S. troops are struggling for a foothold told women soldiers of our Female Engagement Teams that they were furious at the government and constantly anxious. Because of violence, corruption, oppression? No, they feared death in pregnancy or loss of children, families and futures for lack of simple things like midwifery care, diarrhea medicine, antibiotics and soap.
He makes a compelling argument that the US should invest more in simple medical supplies and treatment for women and children, both to improve the physical and economic health of developing countries and to diminish the appeal of terrorism. He writes,
Tackling the health and education problems of women and children in the developing world is relatively simple — compared to complex matters like global peace — and requires no further research or new technology.
It is clear these investments change lives and communities to the benefit of us all. We need not wait for war to act.
But we may need some of these investments at home too. The US ranks 31st out of 164 countries on Save the Children's Mothers' Index. Its maternal mortality rate is 1 in 2,100, the highest of any industrialized country (that's 15 times higher, for instance, than the mortality rate in Greece). Child mortality is also relatively high, with 8 out of 1,000 children dying before the age of five. Explanations for the US's shameful maternal mortality rate abound, from lack of adequate prenatal care (especially for poor and minority women), to an excess of C-sections, to high rates of hypertension and diabetes, which can cause pregnancy complications. But one thing is clear: improving the health of women and children isn't just something we need to do for developing countries. If we intend to catch up with Norway, it's something we must do at home.
2011 World Mothers Index Says Norway Best Place For Moms, Afghanistan Worst [AP, via Newser]
Afghanistan Hell For Mothers, Too [Politico]
Mother's Index [Save The Children]
Image via Luis Louro/Shutterstock.com