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Study reveals link between gender inequality and child mortality

Posted:  Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Many countries have dismal statistics on child health and mortality. Each year, 1 in 7 of all children born globally has low birth-weight. Moreover, during the first 5 years of life, one in four children becomes malnourished, thus raising the mortality risk. Policymakers, in general, have focussed on economic development to tackle these problems. However, a new study puts the spotlight on gender inequality. The study finds that societal inequality between men and women is strongly linked to the health and survival of children.

The study, published in the journal Global Health Epidemiology and Genomics, examined data from 96 countries. In order to assess country-level gender inequality, the researchers considered the ability of women to participate in work, education and political life, as well as health aspects connected to childbearing.

The researchers found that the status of women in society, such as the number of employed women or their education levels (relative to men) correlate with child malnutrition and mortality rates. They also found that prioritising economic growth did not seem to better the child health situation. On the contrary, it contributed to burgeoning health costs such obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

Explaining the study findings, Akanksha Marphatia, University of Cambridge said, "Economic development does not always direct wealth into the hands of women, so that it may not actually reach children's needs. The status of women in society appears strongly linked with children's health and survival. Based on our findings, efforts to reduce societal gender inequality could potentially lead to major reductions in child malnutrition and mortality in low- and middle-income countries."

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