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Sweden wins over England in child health championship
  1. Hugo Lagercrantz
  1. Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institute, 17165 Solna, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Hugo Lagercrantz, Acta Paediatrica, Tomtebodavägen 9, 171 65 Solna, Sweden; Hugo.Lagercrantz{at}

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Sweden lost its World Cup quarter final to England in summer 2018, but it has certainly met its goals for infant survival. Child mortality is almost twice as high in England as Sweden, according to a study by Zylbersztejn et al 1 that covered 2003–2012. This is a little difficult to understand given the many similarities between the two countries and the fact that Sweden essentially copied the model for the UK National Health Service. However, several reasons could explain the difference.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Sweden was a poorer country than, for example, France and England, and it had very high infant mortality rates. In 1845 the Swedish government appointed Fredrik Theodor Berg (1806–1887) as the first professor of paediatrics in Sweden, and possibly the world, at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. He stated prophetically that “the health of the nation is related to the survival of infants.”

Crucial political reforms led to decreasing infant mortality in Sweden during the 20th century.2 Antenatal and children’s clinics were established and poor mothers could receive child benefits from the 1930s. Sweden’s economy was boosted after the Second World War, partly because the country had remained neutral. The Swedish government also introduced social reforms and considerable improvements in housing for families with children. Most of the poverty and the small midwifery units like Nonnatus House in the British television series …

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  • Funding None declared.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.