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Hans Rosling, of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, delivered a TED talk last month called “The Good News of the Decade?” where he discussed the Millenium Development Goals. His discussion focused on child mortality and how choosing a relatively arbitrary date range of 1990-2015 to evaluate progress does not give us the full picture, especially given the fact that the 1990s were “a bad decade…across Africa.” Many MDG indicators actually worsened in many countries throughout the 1990s before beginning to improve in the 2000s.

Even though MDGs may not all be achieved as they were conceived, that doesn’t necessarily mean progress isn’t being made. For example, look at child mortality rates before age 5 in Egypt (starting at about 10:10 in the clip) from 1960 (about 300 deaths per 1,000) to 1990 (about 90 deaths) to 2008 (23 deaths).

A similar trend exists for maternal mortality, as we see drastic declines in the latter half of the 20th century. While there is still plenty of work to do, it’s important to remember that progress is being made and Rosling’s talk is an inspiring reminder of the amazing work being done in the field of public health.

*Impressed by Rosling’s charts? You can make your own at Google’s public data explorer. Unfortunately, maternal mortality datasets aren’t available, but we can look at fertility rates and percentage of birth attended by skilled health staff.*

(h/t Laura Freschi at