The World Bank must define life expectancy, its key poverty indicator, as starting at the time of conception and not at the time of birth if millions of lives are to be saved from injury or death. International public health experts, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said that definitional oversight, in which the life of the child is inadvertently cut into two, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the womb, covers up risks to the fetus and is particularly unfair to children born in areas increasingly at risk to disasters and already disadvantaged by poverty, hunger and social deprivation. This segmented definition, said the authors, should be replaced by a new inclusive way of thinking about ‘the unborn child’.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that there are 200 million plus conceptions globally each year, mostly among disadvantaged groups in disadvantaged areas. The first nine months of life are vulnerable to risks, not just medical but employment, agricultural, security, energy and climate risks. Lead author, Dr Bruce Currey, of the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine, University of Geneva, said: “Social and environmental risks and hazards affecting mother and baby during pregnancy may reduce the resilience of the child in the next stages of life’s journey.” He continued: “Until now, the nine months between conception and birth are being ignored in the UN disaster and climate change discourse.”