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Bridging the Gap: Tackling Maternal and Child Health Disparities Between Developed and Underdeveloped Countries

Bridging the Gap: Tackling Maternal and Child Health Disparities Between Developed and Underdeveloped Countries

The health of mothers and children is important for a healthy world. Nonetheless, the global situation in this aspect seemingly deteriorates. Although maternal-child health (MCH) goals have been developed to curb the effects of maternal and child mortality on a global scale, significant challenges are still evident. Thus, serious disparities between developed and underdeveloped countries are registered. Specifically, with insufficient funding and lack of access to limited health services in developing nations, millions of mothers and children continue to die, which hampers the economic progress and development of these countries. Nursing entails a combination of proactive and transnational efforts to end these deaths since they are preventable. In other words, the maternal and child health global situation requires nurses’ cooperation in prevention and care to reflect equality among developed and developing countries. The analysis of global maternal and child health issues in both developed and underdeveloped nations is an important aspect that will help effect global nursing strategies to promote universal health coverage for this population categorization.

The Global Situation of Maternal and Child Health

Multiple factors affect the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their children. However, most maternal and child deaths are caused by preventable illnesses and complications. According to Kuruvilla et al., approximately 300,000 maternal deaths occur from preventable causes of part or childbirth. In addition, six million children under the age of five die from preventable causes annually. Nevertheless, a significant disparity between developing and developed countries has been observed, whereby most of these mortality rates are registered in the latter. Notably, Bhutta and Black claim that almost two-thirds of all maternal and newborn deaths can be attributed to only 10 developing countries.
Additionally, the World Health Organization has acknowledged that despite the advances in attaining set standards for improving maternal and child health, mortality rates are still high, with developing countries feeling the impacts stronger than developed ones. Specifically, the levels of maternal and infant/newborn mortality rates are unacceptably high in sub-Saharan African countries and Southern Asia, while the majority of European states and other developed nations have very insignificant rates of such deaths. Thus, high maternal and child mortality rates tend to cripple the economies of affected countries.

Effect of Maternal and Infant Health in Underdeveloped Countries

Anecdotal evidence widely suggests that most reported child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and some parts of Asia. Notably, estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian region of Afghanistan are the worst affected regions. For instance, maternal mortality rates in Ethiopia are among the highest in the world, ranging from 600 to 700 deaths per 100,000 births. Regrettably, most mothers in these developing countries die mainly due to a lack of access to basic maternity care and professional attendants during labor and childbirth.

High child mortality rates harm the economic development of any nation. Specifically, high maternal morbidity and mortality lead to nations’ financial instability, the loss of education opportunities for surviving children, and increased mortality rates among children whose mothers have died. The future of such children is greatly interfered with, which leads to negative economic development. Moreover, continued high levels of maternal morbidity have economic consequences that affect productivity and a country’s gross domestic production (GDP) index. In developing countries, the deaths of women and their infants have a significant psychological impact that tends to affect the economies of these countries negatively. Therefore, the productivity and direct investment of these countries change drastically. This is mainly attributed to the loss of the labor force or the reduced productivity resulting from losing a loved one or poor health in case of the mother’s complications during childbirth.
Moreover, the direct costs and expenditures in healthcare associated with these deaths lead to the economy’s slow growth since most money is reallocated to cover the costs of medical services or funerals. Finally, Molla et al. note that maternal mortality and morbidity in Sub-Saharan African countries affect the nutrition and schooling of children. This leads to nationwide and global consequences that extend beyond these developing nations.

Additionally, the high rates of child and maternal deaths in developing nations affect their economy and reduce the pace of progression. Specifically, pregnancy-related crises have unimaginable negative impacts on these countries. A good example is Burkina Faso, where maternal mortality is much higher than the average of 120 deaths per 100,000 live births. In addition, Nigeria has an annual productivity loss of over 100 million dollars due to maternal and child mortality and related complications. Based on these startling statistics from developing countries, one can see that maternal and child health should be addressed with immediate urgency.

Effect of Maternal and Child Health in Developed Countries

At the same time, the effect of maternal and child morbidity and mortality in developed countries is quite insignificant. Thus, countries such as the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Germany register insignificant rates compared to developing countries in Africa and Asia. Additionally, in most European countries, neonatal deaths have been reported to be declining since 2004. However, despite being regarded as a developed nation, the United States of America is ranked the worst among such countries regarding maternal and child health. For example, Creanga et al. reports significant maternal morbidity rates in the USA due to women’s physical and psychological conditions. However, while the figures are not so high compared to those from developing nations, approximately 60,000 women in the USA are affected, increasing the strain on the economy. Despite the low maternal and child mortality rates, the consequences of a single death of a mother or a child in a developed nation are similar to those in developing ones.

Similarly, in the USA, productivity is reduced when a mother dies from a preventable complication. Additionally, the government has to bear the burden of extending financial aid to meet some of the basic needs of orphaned children, including covering their education expenses and providing them with food stamps when necessary. Therefore, each death or complication is a tragedy for these developed countries and an economic loss, similar to the developing world.

A Comparison Between Developed and Underdeveloped Countries

The huge gap between the number of mothers and children affected health-wise in developed and developing countries is quite significant. For example, the MMR for underdeveloped countries, such as most African countries, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Jamaica, is approximately 230 per 100,000 live births compared to less than 11 per 100,000 live births in developed nations. However, the latter has the lowest rates. The significant differences between these nations and developing ones are mainly caused by the easy accessibility of healthcare services in the former. Nevertheless, despite the increased access to healthcare facilities in developed nations, maternal deaths are still reported, with the USA being the main culprit. This indicates that the resolution to the problem has not been reached yet. Consequently, the economic burden resulting from the death of a mother or a child is the same regardless of a country’s development status.


Child and maternal mortality and morbidity rates are global health problem that has affected both developed and underdeveloped countries. Although the statistics of how this issue affects different countries in the world differ, this problem must be addressed in all countries. This is necessary as the consequences of maternal and child deaths on the economy are the same for any country with any economic status. The global strategies to reduce maternal and child health issues have not yet addressed all sectors related to mortalities, morbidities, and associated disabilities. As such, there have been significant disparities in the effects of maternal and child in high-income and low-income nations due to the inequalities in access to reproductive, maternal, and infant/newborn healthcare services. Addressing these issues is partly the work of the global nursing community that ensures universal health coverage and the strengthening of healthcare systems of both developed and underdeveloped countries. More importantly, improving the statistics of developing nations through promoting more affordable and effective treatment programs and policies is essential in ensuring that most mothers and their newborns are at a low risk of dying from preventable causes.

📎 References

1. Bhutta, Z. A., & Black, R. E. (2013). Global maternal, newborn, and child health – so near and yet so far. New England Journal of Medicine, 369(23), 2226-2235. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1111853
2. Creanga, A. A., Berg, C. J., Ko, J. Y., Farr, S. L., Tong, V. T., Bruce, F. C., & Callaghan, W. M. (2014). Maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States: Where are we now? Journal of Women’s Health, 23(1), 3–9. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2013.4617
3. Filippi, V., Ganaba, R., Calvert, C., Murray, S. F., & Storeng, K. T. (2015). After surgery: The effects of life-saving caesarean sections in Burkina Faso. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15, 348. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-015-0778-7
4. Kassebaum, N. J., Barber, R. M., Bhutta, Z. A., Dandona, L., Gething, P. W., Hay, S. I., … Murray, C. J. (2016). Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990–2015: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet, 388(10053), 1775-1812. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31470-2
5. Kuruvilla, S., Schweitzer, J., Bishai, D., Chowdhury, S., Caramani, D., Frost, L., … Cohen, R. (2014). Success factors for reducing maternal and child mortality. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92, 533-544. https://doi.org/10.2471/BLT.14.138131
6. Molla, M., Mitiku, I., Worku, A., & Yamin, A. E. (2015). Impacts of maternal mortality on living children and families: A qualitative study from Butajira, Ethiopia. Reproductive Health, 12(Suppl 1), S6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-4755-12-S1-S6
7. UNICEF. (2014). Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2013. Retrieved from https://www.afro.who.int/sites/default/files/2017-05/trends-in-maternal-mortality-1990-to-2015.pdf
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