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Poor Treatment of Urban Mothers Earns US Poor Ranking from NGO

First Posted: Jul 07, 2015 04:55 PM EDT
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Photo : David McNew / Staff

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Photo : Getty Images/Joe Raedle / Staff

According to recent findings published by international non-governmental organization Save the Children, the United States ranked 33rd out of 170 nations when measuring the best and worst nations for mothers. Washington, D.C. had the nation's highest infant mortality rate at 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. While this is a historical low for D.C., it's three times the rates of Tokyo and Stockholm.  

"State of the World's Mothers: The Urban Disadvantage" found that women in the U.S. face 1 in 1,800 risk of maternal death, which is the worst performance of any developed country in the world. The popular myth that America offers superior quality of life and healthcare is weakened by the fact that proper care isn't being accessed by citizens of all experience. In D.C., children born in poverty are 10 times more likely to die before their first birthday than those born in the richest part the city. However, this issue isn't unique to Washington, D.C.  

Fifty-four percent of the world's population lives in urban areas, and many governments are flawed in the way they address the basic needs of the urban poor. In developing countries, the urban poor are often as bad as, or worse off than, the average rural family. Also, when many rural families move to the city for improve opportunities, they find more -- rather than less -- hardship. Almost all future population growth in developing countries is expected to happen in cities, consequentially a greater share of child deaths take place in urban areas. Even as progress has been made to eliminate disparities, urban survival gaps have grown in many nations.

The poorest urban mothers and children are often deprived of lifesaving health care, and at the same time, they must contend with urban area's overcrowding, poor sanitation and food insecurity, which makes them vulnerable to illness and disease. High child death rates in these areas are rooted in deprivation, disadvantage and discrimination, and often individuals face discrimination or abuse when seeking care. Also, often they deal with unqualified health practitioners, often paying for care that is poor quality, or in some cases, harmful. The report indicated that ensuring universal health coverage could improve the health of the urban poor significantly.

In recent years, many major U.S. cities had higher infant mortality rates than Washington, D.C.'s current rate. In 2011, Cleveland (14.1 percent), Detroit (12.4 percent), Baltimore (10.8 percent), Memphis (10.7 percent), Raleigh (10 percent), Indianapolis (9.5 percent), Philadelphia (9.5 percent), Milwaukee (9.3 percent), Atlanta (9.3 percent) and Columbus (8.9 percent) were the 10 largest U.S. cities with the highest infant death rates.

Save the Children found that city averages and population sizes often mask the huge disparities in infant death rates between rich and poor children, which is why it is easy to overlook important statistics involving immigrants and those with lower socioeconomic status.

The report shared very little information highlighting the experiences of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. However, it wouldn't be an assumption to say that Latinos are struggling with the difficulties of being a member of the urban poor in these urban areas, which Latinos frequent. Norway ranked first on the list, Somalia ranked last and many Latino nations landed someone in the middle of the list.

The report took maternal health, children's well-being, educational status, economic status and political status into account when constructing the complete mothers' index. Also, the report indicated that the United States' poor ranking can be attributed to the fact that it lags behind all other top-ranked countries on maternal health (61st in the world) and children's well-being (42nd in the world) and performs poorly on political status (89th in the world).

A woman in the U.S. is more than 10 times as likely as a woman in Austria, Belarus or Poland to eventually die from a pregnancy-related cause. Also, women hold less than 20 percent of seats in the United States Congress. Nearly half of all countries in the world perform better on this indicator.

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