Twenty years after the launching of the World Health Organization”s Safe Motherhood Initiative, the sexual and reproductive health status of women across the globe has remained relatively poor and “disturbingly static,” Population Action International (PAI) reports. PAI, an independent policy advocacy group, released a study this week of women in 130 countries, analyzing nine reproductive health indicators that, combined, determine a Reproductive Risk Index (RRI). The nine indicators are HIV/AIDS prevalence among young adults, adolescent fertility, percentage of girls married before age 18, postnatal care, availability of family planning, births attended by skilled health personnel, grounds on which abortion is permitted, maternal mortality ratio and infant mortality rate.
The majority of countries in the highest-risk RRI category are from sub-Saharan Africa; these results compare strongly to the statistics released by several international groups in anticipation of Women Deliver, a three-day global conference on maternal mortality now taking place in London. Countries topping the “lowest risk” category, are the Netherlands, Switzerland and Singapore; the US ranks 22nd.
PAI suggests the best way to improve women”s overall well-being is with better maternal health services, making pregnancy and childbirth safer, providing adequate supplies of contraceptives and making abortion legal, safe and accessible.