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Apr 24, 2010 1:30 pm

Global Maternal Mortality is Actually Down

The Associated Press reports, The U.N. and and The Lancet (a leading scholarly journal for medical research) released sharply disagreeing reports on worldwide maternal mortality figures, with the U.N. claiming maternal mortality rates have not decreased at all in the last 30 years, while the Lancet study concluded that maternal mortality rates have been reduced by near 30% --- due primarily to gains in women's education, economic status, and greater access to well-trained childbirth assistants (such as midwives), save in a small number of countries. (Six countries account for more that half of global mortality during childbirth: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.)

The Lancet's editor was also pressured to postpone publication until a date"after critical fundraising meetings" for several women's advocacy groups. "Activists perceive a lower maternal mortality figure as actually diluting their message," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Advocacy can sometimes get in the way of science."

"The U.N. has a track record of inflating disease figures to keep the aid money flowing, so I'd probably place more faith in the figures which show a lower disease burden," said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think tank."This is yet more confirmation that whoever paints the most apocalyptic picture gets the most cash, even if they have to manipulate and spin the data."

The Lancet editorial on the study

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