Sunday, April 22, 2007

Infant Deaths on the rise in the US

As I have mentioned before, the US have the highest infant mortality in the Western World. Now, there is some distrubing news in the NY Times - In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South

For decades, Mississippi and neighboring states with large black populations and expanses of enduring poverty made steady progress in reducing infant death. But, in what health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states.

The setbacks have raised questions about the impact of cuts in welfare and Medicaid and of poor access to doctors, and, many doctors say, the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes and hypertension among potential mothers, some of whom tip the scales here at 300 to 400 pounds.

“I don’t think the rise is a fluke, and it’s a disturbing trend, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Southeast,” said Dr. Christina Glick, a neonatologist in Jackson, Miss., and past president of the National Perinatal Association.

To the shock of Mississippi officials, who in 2004 had seen the infant mortality rate — defined as deaths by the age of 1 year per thousand live births — fall to 9.7, the rate jumped sharply in 2005, to 11.4. The national average in 2003, the last year for which data have been compiled, was 6.9. Smaller rises also occurred in 2005 in Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. Louisiana and South Carolina saw rises in 2004 and have not yet reported on 2005.


As the article states, the rise seems to correlate with race.

Most striking, here and throughout the country, is the large racial disparity. In Mississippi, infant deaths among blacks rose to 17 per thousand births in 2005 from 14.2 per thousand in 2004, while those among whites rose to 6.6 per thousand from 6.1. (The national average in 2003 was 5.7 for whites and 14.0 for blacks.)


Given how socio-economical factors and race correlates, I think it can be said that infant mortality correlates with socio-economical factors (the poorer the mother is, the higher the infant mortality).

Some of this might tie in to the lack of health care for the women involved, though poor women generally can get free prenatal care. As Dr. Bouldin Marley says

“I don’t think there’s a lack of providers or facilities,” he said. “Some women just don’t have the get up and go.”


Dr. Marley doesn't seem to understand that poor people don't always have the opportunity to take time off "to go". As Barbara Ehrenreich described in Nickel and Dimed, many poor people have to work several jobs just to get by.

And there are other factors involved. One of people interviewed in the article makes clear that availability of health care is not enough, if it there is no way for the people to go there.

But social workers say that the motivation of poor women is not so simply described, and it can be affected by cuts in social programs and a dearth of transportation as well as low self esteem.

“If you didn’t have a car and had to go 60 miles to see a doctor, would you go very often?” said Ramona Beardain, director of Delta Health Partners. The group runs a federally financed program, Healthy Start, that sends social workers and nurses to counsel pregnant teenagers and new mothers in seven counties of the Delta. “If they’re in school they miss the day; if they’re working they don’t get paid,” Ms. Berdain said.


While I keep talking about universal health care as a solution, it cannot stand alone. There must be some kind of safety net that can protect people from proverty if they need health care or if they use preventive health care. The later is probably a pretty good investment for society, as it reduces costs in the long run.

Now, will the so-called pro-life politicans do something about this?

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3 Comments:

Blogger rasmussenanders said...

I completely agree with your analysis. An interesting fact that I would add to your analysis is that the US government pays more for the health of their citizents than most of the countries that have free healthcare for all their citzents (such as the UK or Sweden).

I was wondering about one thing though. What data do you have to support the rise in diabetes. I recently listened to some lectures in human nutrition on Berkeleys webcasts, and according to the professor the rise in obesity has in fact not been accompined with a rise in health problems. Diabetes she claims has been steady since the 1970s...

April 22, 2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Trinifar said...

the US have the highest infant mortality in the Western World

This is, without a doubt, the most embarrasing statistic to this American. That it could be getting worse is a travesty in the truest sense of the word. We must get universal health care just get on the first rung of the ladder of civilization.

April 23, 2007 8:33 AM  
Blogger Kaethe said...

>The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.

But Dr. Marley assumes laziness.

>“The mothers in general, black or white, are not as healthy,” Dr. Marley said, calling obesity and its complications a main culprit.

>“Victoria never gives a reason why she doesn’t see a doctor. I guess she thinks she’s gotten away with it three times already.”

Maybe she'd prefer not to see a doctor who ignores the actual health problems and difficulties of extreme poverty, in favor of bashing his patients.

April 23, 2007 7:31 PM  

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