Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Best and Worst Places to Be a Mom Save the Children Puts the Status of Moms and Kids in Perspective

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Best and Worst Places to Be a Mom Save the Children Puts the Status of Moms and Kids in Perspective

Article excerpt

Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there who qualifies for the title. That includes my remarkable mom, who turns 91 on Tuesday, who just started her very first vegetable garden and who still can be seen in good weather traversing the neighborhood with her red rolling walker.

And it includes me, about to witness my daughter's college graduation from Hogwarts, as we call her Gothic campus in the middle of an Ohio cornfield.

That's what I get for blinking. One day she's 4 and spurning the dress I've suggested, and the next she's 21 and spurning the dress I've suggested. So much change, and so little, so fast.

As it does each year around Mother's Day, Save the Children has released its annual "Mothers' Index," ranking conditions for mothers and children in 165 nations around the world. The index is part of the "State of the World's Mothers," which appears online at

The index demonstrates how the quality of children's lives depends on the health, security and well-being of their moms. In countries where women have access to education, economic participation and maternal/child health care, they and their children are more likely to live longer and do better across the board.

This year's edition focuses on nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life and the huge impact it has on a child's future. It outlines six low-cost feeding interventions -- the "lifesaving six" -- with the greatest potential to save lives: Iron supplements to strengthen disease resistance; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, which increases child survival six-fold; complementary feeding to prevent stunted growth; vitamin A to prevent blindness; and zinc and good hygiene to prevent children dying from diarrhea. Sounds simple enough, but millions of children are suffering from the lack of even these basic risk-reducers.

The report is always an eye-opening review of the big picture. As in past years, the United States is not leading the way -- we're ranked 25th -- but compared to many places we're light years ahead. Still, if you wonder why we're not higher on the list, here's what's holding us back:

* The risk of maternal death is 1 in 2,100 -- the highest of any industrialized nation. A woman in the United States is seven times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than a woman in Italy or Ireland, and 15 times more likely than a woman in Greece.

* The mortality rate for children under 5 is eight per 1,000, on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovakia and Qatar. A child in the United States is four times as likely as a child in Iceland to die before turning 5.

* The United States has the worst maternity-leave policy of any wealthy nation. Indeed, it's the only developed country with no guarantee of paid leave for employed mothers. …

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