The Global Motherhood Report Card, Revisited


A few days ago, I received an urgent email from Senator Gillibrand. Okay, maybe it wasn’t actually from the personal email of Kirsten Gillibrand and maybe it wasn’t any more urgent than her other emails about legislation, newsworthy topics, or appeals for support to her PAC. But, nevertheless, this subject line came across my inbox from her Gillibrand for Senate people:

“This made my jaw drop.”

I opened the email to find out what could be making Senator Gillibrand’s jaw drop. It turns out that it was a statistic taken from the NGO Save the Children’s annual report on the status of motherhood, “State of the World’s Mother Report 2015”, a subject that I had posted on a few months back. The report uses a number of indicators to determine the best/worst places in the world to be a mother. As it was when I last posted on the matter, city slums are the worst geographic locations to mother children in the world. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and overcrowding are contributing factors to the high incidence of maternal and child deaths in impoverished urban areas. Something worth mentioning has changed since my last post on the report, however: in 2014, the US was ranked just 31st in a list of the best and worst countries to be a mother in, down from 6 in 2006. Now, in 2015, we are even lower, having dropped to number 33. This is what has Senator Gillibrand’s jaw dropping.

The Washington Post took the data from the report and visually mapped it out, available here, showing the best and worst places to be a mother around the globe. At number 33, we’re still among the better countries, but it’s certainly not anything to brag about. Perhaps the reason The Washington Post has taken notice of this report is because it points out that among capital cities in richer countries, Washington, DC has the highest infant mortality rate. The infant mortality rate in this city is an average of 7.9 babies for every 1,000 live births. The averages in cities like Oslo or Sweden (ranked 1st and 5th, respectively, in the report) are around 2.0 babies per every 1,000 births. The report attributes this to the huge gap between rich and poor in DC. Life expectancy overall differs greatly between the city’s richest and poorest populations.

The report uses cities like Phnom Penh in Cambodia as case studies for how they have drastically cut down their infant mortality rates. According to Save the Children, promoting skilled birth attendance, incentivizing training for midwives, and more widespread communication pathways to spread public health messages have contributed to the decrease in infant mortality rates. However, applying this model won’t offer the same solutions to the US, so how can we better support mothers in our nation? Cue Kirsten Gillibrand.

Following her email’s line about jaws dropping was a plea to support a number of female candidates currently running for office, with the hope that electing female representatives will bring about better conditions for mothers in our country. The five indicators used by the State of the World’s Mother report to determine ranking are maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status, and political status. As part of the political status factor is measured by women’s participation in politics, Senator Gillibrand sees a unique opportunity in turning our less than sterling rank around. She believes (as do I) that the more women we elect to office, the more likely we will see laws codified that support mothers and close the poverty gap in our country – things like higher minimum wage, paid medical leave for mothers, better reproductive care, and expanded access to affordable child care and universal pre-K.

But don’t just trust Save the Children, Senator Gillibrand, or me. As with anything, find out more for yourself. Read the full report here: Check out what politicians are saying about maternal health and women’s rights. Follow the status of the Millennium Development Goals put out by the UN: And be sure to tell us what you think!

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

Published by MOM

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