Tag Archives: Deaths

Critical Analysis: Maternal Mortality

Maternal mortality down 45% globally, but 33 women an hour are still dying

By Leila Hadou, The Guardian, 7th May 2014

Screencap of Guardian article

Screencap of Guardian article

Summary of the article

A report recently published by the World Health Organisation  show deaths from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth have dropped by 45% since 1980. However, 800 women still die every day from complications, 99% of these occurring in developing countries. The key challenge is suggested to be the lack of accurate data. The number of women dying and the reasons behind it, often remain unrecorded and unreported. Improving data collection worldwide remains a priority, according to health groups.

 Summary of the review

The article was on a relevant topic and well written. There was an abundance of sources and the graphics illustrated the issue rather well. However, there was a lack of contextualising the data and explaining what the numbers actually meant i.e. how much is a hundred thousand or a thousand in comparison to total population numbers.

Total: 9.5/10


1. Is the article factually accurate?

Yes- All the data comes from the World Health Organisation (WHO) report and were used correctly.

Score: 1

2. Is there a conflict of interest?

No-  As far as the Guardian’s trainee journalist Leila Haddou’s past employment shows, she did not work in any organisation that would result in a conflict of interest. Her gender is not an issue when writing objectively on a female topic.  The World Health Organisation who issued the report is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for shaping the health research agenda and monitoring and assessing health trends and therefore there is no conflict of interest.

Score: 1

3. Is it newsworthy?

Yes- While complications during pregnancy and deaths during childbirth are much more prevalent in developing countries, it is an issue that could potentially affect half the world’s population, making it of interest to the  readers.

Score: 1

4. Are the sources authoritative?

The source of the report is the World Health Organisation which an international organisation with a reputation for solid data. It was published in the Lancet which is a well established journal. They’ve also quoted high ranking officials at UNICEF and WHO, increasing the authoritativeness of the information.

 Score: 1

5. Have they used two or more sources?

Yes, they have two independent experts, Dr Geeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director of UNICEF and Tim Evans, Director of Health, Nutrition and Population for the world bank group.  Dr Marleen Temmerman, Director of reproductive health and research at WHO is also quoted on the report.

Score: 1

6. Is the headline misleading?

No- the headline summarises the subject of the article well.

Score: 1

7. Is the article sensational or scaremongering?

No- they’ve clearly stated a large drop in deaths by the first sentence. Some of the numbers are shocking, such as 33 deaths/hour but the calculations is sound and the writer is not hyping the rest of the statistics.

Score: 1

8. Does it explain concepts properly?

There were not many concepts to be explained in this article. When the writer used the term ‘global Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR)’ it was immediately explained. It did not explain HIV, malaria or AIDS but this could be assumed to be a term understood by the readers.

 Score: 1

9. Is the article well written and engaging?

 The article is clearly written but it is not very engaging. It reads more like a general summary of the report with quotes from experts. While the information is important enough to be read even without being very engaging, it would have helped to contextualise the data a bit more. After a few sentences, the large numbers tend to lose their meaning.

Score: 0.5

10. Do the graphics help illustrate the story?

The graphs and tables were clear and simple, easy to take in and understand. Another possibility would have been a map with shades of red to indicate the severity of the problem on a global context but bar charts also worked well and gave a more accurate image of the numbers.

Score: 1




How to… create a datawrapper graph

Datawrapper is a tool that helps you create interactive charts and maps while making you appear more data-savvy than the average excel user. This example will go through the creation of a graph using the Datawrapper site and the data from my previous post on alcohol related deaths.

  • First, obtain the data you wish to work with. For this example, I downloaded the excel file of alcohol -related deaths  from the National Office for Statistics.ons
  • Then, ‘clean’ the data you wish to use by deleting unnecessary columns or rows. For my third chart, I decided to create a new table with the total number of alcohol-related deaths for males, females and both for every year.
  • Copy the table of data you wish to visualise and enter it on the Datawrapper.de website after clicking the try it now button. There is no need to sign up although the option exists. Don’t edit the data even if it looks messy when pasted.Untitled
  • Once you upload and visualise, you can decide on the type of chart and title. Untitled 3
  • Finally, you need to publish and embed. A URL and code will be generated so you can create a hyperlink from your blog or embed it in your website. WordPress, unfortunately doesn’t allow embedding.Untitled 4

Alcohol-related deaths finally decreasing?

Alcohol. A life saving disinfectant, a solvent in perfumes, a possible fuel and most of all a very popular drink. However, half of teenagers in this country put themselves at risk by intoxication of alcohol at least once a month according to Professor David Nutt, British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in the research of drugs. He says: “It is the commonest reason for death in men over the age of fifty.”

Since 1992,  alcohol related deaths in the UK in both male and females were increasing. By 2004,the number of deaths had doubled compared to 1992. However, data from 2010 onwards suggest for the first time in two decades, alcohol related deaths are decreasing in both males and females.

This data was taken from the Office for National Statistics

male deaths

Click here to see graph!

alcohol female

Click here to see graph!



Click here to see the graph

“Alcohol numerically is responsible for considerably more harm in the population, certainly health related harm in the population, than other drug.” says Paul Wallace, professor of primary health care at University College London. If this trend continues downwards, it could save many people of liver cirrhosis and death. It could also remove Britain’s reputation as one of the EU countries with higher than average rates of alcohol consumption.

However, this trend shown by the ONS data does not necessarily mean the success of government regulations. “We don’t have any rational policy on drugs in this country” says Prof Nutt and he believes major action needs to be taken to improve the health and life expectancy in the UK.