Story at a glance

  • The report said every country in the world has levels of excess carbon emissions that will prevent younger generations from a healthy future.
  • Countries were also ranked by levels of carbon emissions.
  • The U.S. ranked 173 for sustainability.

The United States ranks below nearly 40 countries when it comes to children’s health and well-being, while the health of children worldwide is under threat due to sustainability issues, according to a new report. 

The report was compiled by health experts in a commission convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), Unicef and published in the medical journal The Lancet. It ranked 180 countries on three measures of child well-being: flourishing, sustainability and equity. The categories include health, education, nutrition, sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions and income gaps. 

The U.S. came in at No. 39 on the child flourishing index, while Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands ranked in the top three respectively. Meanwhile, Somalia, Chad and the Central African Republic ranked last respectively. 

Countries were also ranked by levels of excessive carbon emissions. Researchers looked at projected levels for 2030. The United States ranked number 173 for sustainability. 

When the report factors in CO2 emissions, however, the top three countries were ranked 156, 166 and 160 respectively, based on their carbon emissions. The United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters in the world.  

The report notes that while the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, excessive carbon emissions from wealthier countries threaten the future of all children across the globe. 

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” former Prime Minister of New Zealand and co-Chair of the Commission Helen Clark said in a statement.

“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 poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.” 

The report’s authors called for countries to stop excessive carbon emissions, tighten regulations around commercial marketing of harmful products like alcohol and introduce new policies to protect children’s health, nutrition and rights.

Published on Feb 20, 2020