China climbs seven spots on world health index for mothers and babies
Nation places 61 out of 178 countries in measurement of health and development
China rose seven spots to rank 61st in the latest "Mothers Index", which aims to gauge the health and development of women and children in 178 countries.
"China has been consistently rising in the index, with dramatic cuts in maternal and child mortality," said Pia MacRae, country director for the organisation's China wing.
"This is a result of strong political will and willingness to invest in health care for children, which is a tremendous achievement given the size of the country and population."
The central government has been pursuing a reduction in maternal mortality rates since 2000, as part of the United Nation Millennium Development Goals targets for 2015.
The index, published on Tuesday to coincide with Mother's Day in Britain, draws on data from global groups such as the World Health Organisation, Unicef and the World Bank.
It uses five metrics to determine the ranking - risk of maternal death, the under-five mortality rate, expected amount of formal schooling, gross national income per capita, and the participation of women in national government.
It found that on the mainland, one in every 1,700 women dies from pregnancy-related causes, while the under-five mortality rate was 14 for every 1,000 live births. In Japan the respective figures are 13,100 and three, while in South Korea, the figures are 4,800 and 3.8. Overall, Japan ranked 32 and South Korea 30.
On the political front, the mainland came in relatively strongly, with just over 23 per cent of parliamentary seats held by women. The proportion for Japan is almost 11 per cent and for South Korea nearly 16 per cent.
Women fared about the same politically in India, where they hold just over 11 per cent of seats. But the health situation for Indian women was more worrisome, with one in every 170 dying from pregnancy-related causes. Its under-five mortality rate stood at 56.3 for every 1,000 live births. The figures dragged India's ranking in the index to 137.
"India's situation reflects a lack of political commitment and willingness to invest in order to improve women's and children's lives," said Qian Xiaofeng, a media representative for Save the Children in China.
The index found the United States was slipping in terms of caring for mothers. It was among the nations that had made the least progress since 2000 on maternal and child survival, although it ranked 31st overall.
In contrast, countries in northern European which have strong social welfare and long maternity leave, topped the table. The first five spots were occupied by Finland, Norway and Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands.