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UK becoming a worse place to be a mum, the new drug to curb drinking and why we need to step up our walking efforts

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 7 May.

The UK is becoming a worse place to be a mum relative to much of the rest of Europe, according to a global survey of women’s health and political influence, the Independent reports today.

The Save the Children annual Mother’s Index ranked the UK in 23rd place, behind Germany, France and Ireland, with maternal and infant mortality rates higher than in many Western nations and numbers of women in government far lower that elsewhere in the world.

The top three countries were Finland, Sweden and Norway, while Germany was ninth, Australia tenth, France 16th and Ireland 20th.

The paper says one reason maternal mortality is so high in the UK could be the high proportion of younger and older mothers, due to teenage and IVF pregnancies, while high rates of joblessness are another factor as mothers whose partners are jobless are six times more likely to die prematurely than those with partners in work.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail has good news for people who need to cut down on heavy drinking. It reports that the drug nalmefene, available from today, cuts cravings for alcohol and – according to the manufacturer – can reduce people’s alcohol intake by 60% when combined with counselling.

Investigator Dr David Collier, of Barts and The London School of Medicine, said: ‘The people who we saw in the study were not stereotypical alcoholics, most of them had families and jobs. For the majority, only they and those closest to them would have known that they had a problem with drinking.

‘The results of the studies suggest that nalmefene, in combination with counselling, is a potentially helpful new option for the many people like them in the UK who need some assistance in cutting down their drinking.’

Finally, the BBC reports worrying levels of inactivity among UK adults, with a report from the Rambler’s Association that a quarter of us walk for no more than an hour a week.

Based on a YouGov survey of 2,000 people, the walking charity also found that 43% of adults walk less than two hours a week.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director for the British Heart Foundation, commented: ‘Walking is the easiest and cheapest way to keep fit. You can walk anytime, anywhere and you don’t need any equipment.’

The Ramblers is promoting a ‘Get Walking Week’ and offering free guided walks of five miles or less to help people get started.

Dr Stuart Biddle, professor of physical activity and health at Loughborough University, said walking also has mental health benefits.

‘Walking can elevate a person’s mood, lessen feelings of depression and allow a person to think more clearly,’ he told the BBC.

‘If you feel you are doing something worthwhile rather than sitting around doing nothing and watching junk on the telly [walking can make] you feel a bit better about yourself and boost your self-esteem,’ he added.

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