How Bangladesh achieved its “amazing” health statistics

December 9, 2013 • Family Planning, Asia/Pacific, News

How Bangladesh achieved its “amazing” health statistics

LONDON, 26 November 2013 (IRIN) – In health terms, Bangladesh is a “positive deviant”, performing far better, given its widespread poverty, than anyone could have expected. The London-based medical journal, The Lancet, recently published a series exploring Bangladesh’s surprising success, calling it “one of the great mysteries of global health”.

Here’s the paradox: Bangladesh is a very poor country,- much poorer than India or Pakistan. It has the lowest spending on healthcare in south Asia, (just US$27 per capita annually), and is extremely short of qualified doctors and nurses (only three doctors and three nurses for every 10,000 residents).

And yet, compared with neighbouring India, Pakistan and Nepal, it has achieved some impressive statistics. It has lowest infant and child mortality (51 per 1,000 live births), the highest vaccination rates (86.2 percent of children between one and two years old are vaccinated to internationally recommended standards), and the most extensive reach of family planning services (52 percent of married women under 50 now use modern methods of contraception). It also has the lowest maternal mortality rate (194 per 100,000 live births), despite relatively few women (32 percent) giving birth with a skilled birth attendant present.

Carine Ronsmans, an epidemiology professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has worked extensively in Bangladesh over the past four decades, said its success, supported by robust data, has been “amazing”.

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