Child health is improving, but maternal mortality is worsening

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A study observed healthcare trends around the globe

A new study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation measured healthcare practices in countries around the world, and it found some rather interesting statistics.

Over the last 27 years, the United States has seen advancements in healthcare for children and adolescents, but maternal mortality rates have increased by nearly 70 percent. According to the study, only seven other countries had a similar pattern, but the United States surpassed all other countries with its maternal mortality rate.

“Our findings are particularly alarming because the health of children is very closely linked to that of their mothers,” said researcher Dr. Nicholas Kassebaum. “This paradox warrants closer investigation in the United States to determine how we can prioritize health improvements for mothers alongside those for children and adolescents.”

Analyzing healthcare trends

The study evaluated child and adolescent healthcare trends from nearly 200 countries and territories between 1990 and 2017. While the United States’ maternal mortality rate is particularly concerning, there were some positive trends that came out of the study, including the childhood mortality rate, which is at an all-time low globally.

The researchers credit this statistic to the decline in deaths from communicable diseases, such as lower respiratory infections and diarrhea, among others. The findings reveal that childhood and adolescent deaths went from nearly 14 million in 1990 to under seven million in 2017.

On a more serious note, the researchers found that both self-harm and violence towards others increased in 50 countries over the course of the study, while conditions like malaria, HIV/AIDS, and birth defects continue to plague children and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

In wealthier countries, children’s health was most compromised by asthma, congenital birth defects, and mental and behavioral disorders.

Additionally, the researchers found that communicable diseases, though on the decline, are still cause for concern, as they are the leading cause of childhood mortality, along with self-injury and malnutrition. These findings provide a global picture of healthcare trends, and the researchers’ goal is to continue working to improve conditions around the world.

“An emerging threat is the large and growing burden of mental health and substance use disorders among older children and adolescents globally,” said researcher Dr. Bobby Reiner. “As more children survive infancy, already overburdened health systems will need to adapt to the challenge of addressing noncommunicable diseases among older children and adolescents.”

To see the full study, click here.

Keeping moms and kids healthy

One of the biggest themes from this study and past research in this area is that mothers’ health can oftentimes affect children’s health, which is why both are of the utmost importance.

One recent study found that childbirth is more dangerous for women today than it was for their mothers, while another study revealed that waiting at least one year after childbirth to get pregnant is key for both a mother and her baby to stay healthy.  

Additionally, several studies have looked at how parents can keep their children healthy, including limiting secondhand smoke in the home and taking other sources of air pollution into consideration.

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