The health of children is “inextricably linked” to the health and education of their mothers, according to Save the Children’s recently released annual State of the World’s Mothers report. “In countries where mothers fare well, children fare well; in countries where mothers do poorly, children do poorly.” said Charles McCormack, CEO of Save the Children.
The report included a Mothers’ Index which ranked the countries that were best for mothers and children. Scandinavian countries ranked the highest, with Sweden at the top of the list. In Sweden, literacy is almost universal, nearly every birth is attended by a health professional, and only 1 in 333 babies will die before his or her first birthday.
Education of the mother, combined with access to family planning, was a more important factor than wealth in determining infant survival, according to the report. Women who are educated tend to postpone marriage, have babies later in life, and are more likely to be knowledgeable about health, according to the report. Nicaragua, the Philippines and Tajikistan are low-income countries, but about 70 to 90 percent of pregnant women receive prenatal care and 77 to 99 percent of adult women are literate.
Despite the fact that United States is ranked 10th (tied with the UK) overall, the US infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the developed world, at 5 per 1,000 births. The study links the rates of infant mortality in the US with poverty and low educational levels in the mothers.