Being a mom is a tough job here in America, and according to a recent report, it is only getting harder. According to Save the Children's 15th annual State of the World's Mother's Report, the U.S. ranks 31st in the rankings of the best and worst countries in the world for moms to live. Notably, since 2000 the U.S. has dropped down from its place in the top 10. While reading the report, I could not help but ask, "How have we backslid so significantly and what can be done to change this trend?"
The report references natural disasters such as hurricanes Sandy and Katrina as causes for the descent, as well as a surge in high-risk pregnancy among obese mothers and those with high blood pressure. Another contributing factor to the lower ranking is the limited participation of women in our government. That's because, when women have access to resources and the power to allocate those resources, they direct them to improving the lives of families and communities.
There is no doubt that global issues are connected to local issues. Both internationally and domestically, maternal health is at the center of concern, especially as we near the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals that focus on preventable child and maternal deaths. According to the report, the risk that a 15-year-old girl will die during her lifetime from a maternal cause has increased by 50 percent in America, from one in 3,700 to one in 2,400 today. We are going in the wrong direction.
The increase in maternal mortality can be attributed to women entering pregnancies in poor health (hypertension, diabetes, obesity), the lack of well-women care, and women having short birth intervals. African-American mothers are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts. It does not have to be so. We have models that address these very challenges in our own community.
Locally, EverThrive Illinois is an organization that is working to decrease maternal mortality in Illinois. EverThrive works to improve the health of women, children and families over the lifespan through community engagement, partnerships, policy analysis, education and advocacy. EveryThrive's Executive Director, Janine Lewis says:
The causes of maternal mortality are multifaceted -- in the U.S. and Chicago, risk factors include chronic disease, obesity and short birth intervals. A sustained focus on preconception and interconception care is important to improve the health of women before they become pregnant.
The solutions here in Chicago are the same as those around the globe. Chicago Foundation for Women is supporting all of them. Whether it is advocating for policies against the shackling of pregnant prisoners (CLAIM), or funding services that help teen moms with parenting and staying in school (Teen Parent Connection), or ensuring that single working mothers have opportunities to earn living wages with career ladders (the Eleanor Network at Chicago Foundation for Women); or the community health workers/doulas who work with pregnant women to ensure healthy deliveries and breastfeeding (HealthConnect One), the investments we make have a lasting impact on improving the lives of women and girls. We are working to create a city safe for mothers so their children have a chance to reach their full potential. I hope you'll consider joining us or one of the local solutions I've identified. Together we can move Chicago, and the United States, back at the top of the rankings for the best places for mothers -- where it belongs.