Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, among others, have mapped the proportion of mothers in 170 countries who have lost a child. The result, now presented in the British Medical Journal shows that Sweden – together with Iceland, Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Spain – has the lowest infant mortality rate of all the countries surveyed.
Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. In some countries it is unusual. In other countries, however, the situation is quite different. In several Asian and European countries, less than 10 out of 1000 mothers experience the loss of an infant. In more than 20 African countries, 500 out of 1000 mothers experience the loss of a child at some point in their lives. According to Mats Målqvist, professor of global health at Uppsala University in Sweden, there is a very clear and linear connection between child mortality and how well a society is doing.
To Swedish media Aftonbladet, he says that it is all about what access to care looks like. How the quality of care is, how living conditions are like, sanitation, the incidence of infectious diseases, and so on. All these elements work together and determine how prosperous society is and it has a direct effect on child mortality.
But even in a “model country” such as Sweden, the situation is not perfect, Mats Målqvist believes. “It is not optimal anywhere, not even in Sweden where we see a fairly clear correlation between, for example, income on one hand, and dental status and participation in the childhood vaccination program on the other. We easily believe that these problems only exist “elsewhere”, but that is not the case, he says.
In addition, there are commercial forces that counteract what is known to provide good child health. In Vietnam, Mats Målqvist himself has seen how companies such as Nestlé distribute breast milk compensation to new mothers already outside the hospitals. There are such tendencies in Sweden as well, he says. “I recently read about a study, which TT also wrote about, which was funded by Semper. It talked about a “taste window” and about the benefits of starting to give children other food already at the age of four months. This is even though the recommendation in Sweden and from the WHO on good grounds is complete paralysis until the age of six months, which is never mentioned in the text. So it happens in here too, Mats Målqvist says.