New Report: US Ranks Lower than Almost 40 Countries When it Comes to Children’s Well-Being

The United States ranks below nearly 40 countries when it comes to children’s health and well-being, according to a landmark report released yesterday by a Commission comprised of over 40 child and adolescent health experts worldwide. The Commission was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet.

The report, titled A Future for the World’s Children?, found that the health and future of every child and adolescent across the globe faces the immediate threat of ecological decline, climate change and the exploitative marketing of fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco.

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission, Helen Clark in a press release. “It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.

The Commission ranked 180 countries based on child flourishing performance, and included measures of survival and well-being, such as education, health, sustainability, and nutrition with a proxy for greenhouse gas emissions, and income inequality.

The report found that the top 10 countries on the child flourishing index were:

  1. Norway
  2. South Korea
  3. Netherlands
  4. France
  5. Ireland
  6. Denmark
  7. Japan
  8. Belgium
  9. Iceland
  10. United Kingdom

Overall, the US ranked at #39, trailing such countries as Canada (#21), Israel (#24), New Zealand (#32), Poland (#33), and Saudi Arabia (#36).

The bottom 10 rankings on the child flourishing index, according to the report were:

  • Central African Republic (ranked last)
  • Chad
  • Somalia
  • Niger
  • Mali
  • Guinea
  • Nigeria
  • South Sudan
  • Sierra Leone
  • Afghanistan

Moreover, the report detailed the serious threat posed to children from harmful marketing – and noted that youth exposure to vaping (e-cigarettes) advertisements increased by more than 250% in the US over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.

How to Protect Our Youth

To protect children, the Commission authors put forth specific recommendations, which include: an immediate end to CO2 emissions; prioritizing children and adolescents in efforts to achieve sustainable development; constructing new policies and investments in all sectors to build towards enhanced child health; incorporating children’s voices into policy decisions; and strengthening regulation efforts to mitigate the harmful commercial marketing to children.

“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are, too often, failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization said. “This must be a wakeup call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children.”