In most wealthier nations the maternal death rate is dropping — just not in the United States

More women are dying in childbirth in the US than in any other developed country. And experts say the problem is likely to keep getting worse.

You can see how alarming the issue is in this chart. In other countries, maternal death rates have fallen sharply since 1990. In South Korea, the rate of women dying in childbirth fell from 20.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 12 today. In Germany, it dropped from 18 to 6.5.

But in the United States, the opposite is happening. The rate of women dying in childbirth is going up.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. During the 20th century, the maternal death rate in the United States dropped from 607.9 deaths per 100,000 births in 1915 to 7.2 in 1987. But over the past 30 years, the maternal mortality rate trend reversed and steadily marched upward.

Pregnancy-related deaths are still rare events in the US; only about 700 women die out of 4 million live births annually. But the US is one of the few rich countries in the world where maternal mortality is steadily rising. The maternal mortality rate has more than doubled since 1987, the first year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting data through its pregnancy mortality surveillance system.

And experts are just now understanding why this is happening — why the United States looks so different from other countries, and why so many more new mothers are dying. They think maternal deaths are rising because of the rising toll of chronic diseases.

Thirty years ago, women died in the delivery room because of hemorrhages and pregnancy-induced blood pressure spikes. Now they are much more likely to die because of preexisting chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes…

❝ “It’s a larger problem than just dealing with women during pregnancy, it’s the health of our society,” said Dr. William Callaghan.

Too bad for women. Too bad for everyone. Especially if you’re Black, btw.

RTFA, understand the sum of variables collectively affecting the life of a Black woman. They are two or three times more likely to die of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

Please, don’t forget we only had a window of a couple of years in the decades since a small number of politicians first proposed National Health Insurance in the United States – and actually got it passed. Don’t forget one of the two laggard political parties we have – will be campaigning right up to Election day this year to overturn that one significant victory for public health achieved in Obama’s first term.

If US coal workers were retrained to work in solar – the first thing to happen is they’d make more money

coal to solar
Click to enlargeShutterstock

The global economy is in a massive transition from a fossil-fuel-based energy system to one using sophisticated renewable energy technologies. For tens of thousands of fossil fuel workers, though, the energy industry outlook is not promising. For coal industry workers, the future looks particularly bleak. However, research I conducted with Edward Louie of Oregon State University offers hope for a better future based on retraining workers. Our study…quantified the costs and benefits of retraining coal workers for employment in the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic industry — and it explores different ways to pay for this retraining.

…As coal investors have fled in droves to invest in more profitable companies and industries, coal workers have been left with pink slips and mortgages on houses with few buyers in blighted coal country. It is clear that coal is no longer a competitive form of electrical generation.

The one energy sector that is growing at an incredible rate is the solar industry — and it is hiring.

For decades the solar industry has battled against enormous government subsidies for coal. But because of the tremendous drop in costs for solar technology, solar adoption is now rising rapidly. Bloomberg reports that the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. The U.S. solar industry is creating a lot of jobs, bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy…

Our study found that this growth of solar-related employment could benefit coal workers, by easily absorbing the coal-industry layoffs over the next 15 years and offering full-time careers.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we looked at all current coal industry positions – from engineers to mining and power plant operators to administrative workers – the skill sets required for each…and their respective average salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and salary. For example, an operations engineer in the coal industry could retrain to be a manufacturing technician in solar and expect about a 10% salary increase. Similarly, explosive workers, ordinance handlers, and blasters in the coal industry could use their sophisticated safety experience and obtain additional training to become commercial solar technicians and earn about 11% more on average.

Our results show that there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in the solar industry, and that the annual pay is attractive at all levels of education, with even the lowest skilled jobs paying a living wage (e.g., janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7% by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry). In general, we found that after retraining, technical workers would make more in the solar industry than previously in coal…

The results of the study show that a relatively minor investment ($180 million to $1.8 billion, based on best and worst case scenarios) in retraining would allow the vast majority of U.S. coal workers to switch to solar-related positions. Of course, training times depend on type of job and prior experience…

Workers in any declining industry can learn from the coal industry. They can provide themselves valuable job security insurance by preemptively retraining, and there are numerous opportunities for online training – and even working – in a wide variety of fields. Businesses in tangential industries may also want to consider retraining their own workers — electric utilities, for example, can retrain their coal-fired power plant workers for positions involving utility-scale solar farms

Yes, I think these folks at Harvard are a little naive about voluntary retraining by our coal barons. From the Koch Bros to the Petroleum Club – they couldn’t care a rat’s ass about the workers they lay off. Profits, profits, tax breaks – and more profits is what counts. It’s why they buy and sell politicians from both of the two old parties. Results count more than ideology.

No, we’ll need to light a fire under state and federal politicians to get retraining rolling. And not only in fossil fuels. Send the bill to the bubbas taking the profits from over the years.

Composite map of thawed areas under Greenland Ice Sheet


Click to enlarge

NASA researchers have helped produce the first map showing what parts of the bottom of the massive Greenland Ice Sheet are thawed – key information in better predicting how the ice sheet will react to a warming climate.

Greenland’s thick ice sheet insulates the bedrock below from the cold temperatures at the surface, so the bottom of the ice is often tens of degrees warmer than at the top, because the ice bottom is slowly warmed by heat coming from the Earth’s depths. Knowing whether Greenland’s ice lies on wet, slippery ground or is anchored to dry, frozen bedrock is essential for predicting how this ice will flow in the future, But scientists have very few direct observations of the thermal conditions beneath the ice sheet, obtained through fewer than two dozen boreholes that have reached the bottom. Now, a new study synthesizes several methods to infer the Greenland Ice Sheet’s basal thermal state – whether the bottom of the ice is melted or not – leading to the first map that identifies frozen and thawed areas across the whole ice sheet.

Each of these methods has strengths and weaknesses. Considering just one isn’t enough. By combining them, we produced the first large-scale assessment of Greenland’s basal thermal state,” Joe MacGregor said…

MacGregor said the team’s map is just one step in fully assessing the thermal state of the bottom of Greenland’s ice sheet.

“I call this the piñata, because it’s a first assessment that is bound to get beat up by other groups as techniques improve or new data are introduced. But that still makes our effort essential, because prior to our study, we had little to pick on,” MacGregor said.

Also proving that not only are most good scientists concerned with gradual, conservative research – proven and revalued at every step – you needn’t lose your sense of humor over the process.