Friday, May 7, 2010

Room for improvement


It’s good news for mums, but what about the children?

Did you know that Australia is the second best place in the world to be a mother?
According to Save The Children’s 11th annual State of the World’s Mothers report released on Tuesday, Australia has moved from last year’s third place to second place in the Mother’s Index for 2010.
The index is based on an analysis of indicators of women’s and children’s health and wellbeing. It illustrates that providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care gives them and their children the best chance to survive and thrive.
The top 10 best places to be a mum are Norway, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
The bottom places include Afghanistan, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Yemen. In the bottom-ranked countries, women face disadvantage at every level, with little education, low income ratios to men for equal work, and a high likelihood of losing at least one child.
But it’s not all good news for Australia.

The report also has a Children’s Index which shows Australia has slipped further into the bottom half of developed countries, ranking 28 out of 43. This is somewhat due to our under-five mortality rate of six deaths for every 1000 live births.
At this rate, children in Australia are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as children in Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg or Sweden. And the number of indigenous children dying before the age of five is three times that of non‑indigenous children.
In terms of health, education and economic status, it’s certainly a great country to be a mum, but a lot of improvements need to be made to reduce the number of child deaths.
Save The Children’s Child Rights Specialist Dr Annie Pettitt said: “An important first step would be to tackle the shortfall of almost 2000 midwives in Australia, especially in remote and rural areas where we know the shortage is greatest.”
It’s no coincidence the report has been launched on the annual International Day of the Midwife.
Women are the main providers of care within the family and in communities and health facilities, and midwives have the greatest potential to improve the reproductive health of women in the developing world.
It is estimated that the lives of almost 250,000 women and 5.5 million children worldwide could be saved each year if all women had access to a full package of essential healthcare.
The challenge for Australia is that more investment is needed in appropriate training, regulation and support of midwives so that mothers and children have access to comprehensive, cost‑effective, life-saving services.
And it seems the Government has recognised this need and committed to halving the gap in mortality rates for indigenous children under five within a decade with generous funding commitments.
The National Partnership Agreement for Indigenous Early Childhood Development was signed by COAG leaders in 2008 and comprises $564 million of joint funding over six years.
The agreement builds on the Government’s commitment of $90 million for New Directions: An Equal Start in Life for Indigenous Children.
This funding will be used to improve services for indigenous mothers and babies, with the aim of giving indigenous babies a better chance of being born healthy and staying healthy.
Services will include access to antenatal care, information about baby care, practical advice and assistance with parenting, monitoring of developmental milestones and health checks before children start school.
With more funding for indigenous health, hopefully there will also be an increase in the number of indigenous students becoming nurses and midwives.
Perhaps this time next year, the Save The Children report will reflect a better outcome for our nation’s children.

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