The percentage of premature births in the United States is no better than most developing countries

Fifteen million babies are born prematurely each year, and the United States fared badly in the first country-by-country global comparison of premature births…released by the World Health Organization and other agencies.

Although American hospitals excel at saving premature infants, the United States is similar to developing countries in the percentage of mothers who give birth before their children are due, the study’s chief author noted. It does worse than any Western European country and considerably worse than Japan or the Scandinavian countries.

That stems from the unique American combination of many pregnant teenagers and many women older than 35 who are giving birth, sometimes to twins or triplets implanted after in vitro fertilization…often deliberately delivered early by Caesarean section to avoid the unpredictable risks of vaginally delivering multiple full-term babies.

Also, many American women of childbearing age have other risk factors for premature birth, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking habits. And the many women who lack health insurance often do not see doctors early in their pregnancies, when problems like high blood pressure or genital infections can be headed off…

The report, three years in the making, is the first to compare premature birthrates in 184 countries. It was produced jointly by the W.H.O., Save the Children, the March of Dimes and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which has more than 400 member organizations. Other contributors include nearly 40 major American, European and United Nations health and foreign aid agencies and foundations…

The rate in the United States has risen 30 percent since 1981

In his study of 2,100 Mexican-Americans and immigrants from Mexico, Dr. Radek K. Bukowski, an expert on preterm birth at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, found that the longer a woman lived in this country, the greater her chances of giving birth prematurely. The risk was 4 percent for recent immigrants, 7 percent for those living here less than a decade and 10 percent for citizens.

Even after controlling for risk factors like age, poverty, smoking, obesity and diabetes, “we really don’t have an explanation for what’s behind it,” Dr. Bukowski said. “But whatever it is, it’s not genetic. It’s something they acquire here.”

As the researchers said, it’s time for more study.

I don’t see any problem getting the research done. As usual, if government intervention is needed whether for essential education or repairing a defect in the system – unless we sort out an incompetent Congress and non-leadership from the White House nothing will be accomplished.

Banned film about Save the Children charity gets rare airing


Corporate headquarters in Westport, Connecticut

A 1969 documentary by Ken Loach, made for and later banned by Save the Children, has been shown to an audience of critics and colleagues in London. The untitled film will have its public premiere on 1 September and forms part of a major retrospective of the British director’s work at BFI Southbank.

The film took a critical view of the charity’s work in the UK and Kenya that its backers felt subverted its aims.

“There was a showing and not much was said,” the 75-year-old Loach remembers. “People left the room, and then we heard from the lawyers.”

The 53-minute film was co-funded by Save the Children, then celebrating its 50th anniversary, and London Weekend Television. “We assumed LWT would support the independence of a critical eye,” said Loach on Monday. “But they just backed away.”

As a result, the piece was consigned to the British Film Institute’s National Archive “and the key thrown away”.

That’s the version the Brits get to deal with. During my years in performing arts in among other places – Fairfield County in Connecticut – there were several happenings like this in the same time period.

One involved staff from Save the Children quitting their world headquarters over the “cost of doing business” which had a surprisingly smaller percentage of charity donations than perceived actually passing through to the children supposedly being saved. I knew a few of those folks and they worked for salaries considered nothing more than standard for the market. Yet, the managers of the charity took big chunks for themselves. Perhaps that’s changed?

Of course, films can be strange beasts. I saw the first cut of “Carry it On” and Joan Baez liked to have a fit on the spot with so much portrayed of her hubby, David, walking away from pacifism after he spent serious time in prison with folks from mean streets. The version that made it to nicey-nicey film festivals had lots of changes.

Afghanistan worst place, Norway the best – to be a mom

Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be a mother and Norway is the best…

“Afghanistan has the highest lifetime risk of maternal mortality and the lowest female life expectancy in the world,” putting it at the bottom of the the Mothers’ Index, which has been compiled for the past 12 years by the nonprofit group Save the Children.

In Afghanistan and the nine other countries at the bottom of the index, an average of one in six kids dies before age five and one in three suffers from malnutrition, the report says.

Nearly half the population in the worst countries to raise kids lacks access to clean water, and only four girls for every five boys are enrolled in primary school.

Five Nordic nations and two in the southern hemisphere made up the top seven countries for mothers.

They were, in order, Norway, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and Finland.

Three European nations — Belgium, the Netherlands and France — rounded out the top 10…

A gulf of differences, especially in health, separates top-ranked Norway from bottom-of-the-heap Afghanistan.
In Norway “skilled health personnel are present at virtually every birth,” greatly reducing the likelihood of the mother or baby dying, while in Afghanistan, only 14 percent of births are attended, the report says.

The average life expectancy for a Norwegian woman is 83 years; in Afghanistan, it is 45.

More than eight in 10 Norwegian women use a modern form of contraception, and only one in 175 lose a child before his or her fifth birthday.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, less than one in six women use modern contraception, and one child in five dies before reaching the age of five.

“At this rate, every mother in Afghanistan is likely to suffer the loss of a child,” the report says.

RTFA to expand your understanding of what it means to be a mother – and where. To clarify for my American readers – an American child is twice as likely as a child in Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Singapore or Sweden to die before reaching age five.

You can get the whole report over here [.pdf].

Motherhood in Norway vs. Motherhood in the U.S.A vs. Motherhood in Afghanistan


This is NOT Norway

Norway is the best country in the world in which to be a new mother, followed by Australia, according to Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, issued this month.

Afghanistan was at the bottom of the 160 countries listed.

The United States did not fare well; it was 28th, below Greece, Portugal and virtually all of Western Europe. It ranked just above Poland and most of the former Soviet bloc.

The chief reason for the low American ranking, the authors said, was that despite advanced medical technology, more young mothers die, either in childbirth or in the years after, than in most rich countries. The United States also lost points because American working mothers get less maternity leave and lower benefits…

After Norway and Australia, the top-rated countries were Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and the Netherlands.

The truly low-rated countries achieve their status as you would expect – from treating women as something between a new pair of sandals and a baby-vending machine.

More to the point is a wealthy nation like the United States that reinstates a sex-based mirror of class society whenever words like healthcare enter the equation. Don’t forget – American conservative politicians still think the best politics comes from the 19th Century or earlier.