Monday, July 11, 2011

The cost of health cuts in the US

Women dying during or as a result of childbirth is something we think of as happening in the distant past, or in poor third-world countries without proper health systems. But is happening right now in America. And its increasing:

Between 2003 and 2007, the average maternal mortality rate – defined by deaths that occur within 42 days of childbirth – has risen to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births, approximately double the low of 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births recorded in 1987. Today, the United States ranks 41st in the world for maternal mortality, one of the worst records among developed countries. "Near misses", complications so severe that a woman nearly dies, have increased between 1998 and 2005 to become common – at one woman every 15 minutes.

These disturbing trends are even worse for African American women and poorer women. Nationally, African American women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related death than white women. States in which poverty rates exceeded 18% had a 77% higher rate of maternal mortality than states with lower rates of poverty.

The reason? Health cuts. The US federal government has cut its budget for maternal health by 10% over the last seven years, and the States have followed suit. California apparently now has apparently completely eliminated funds for child and maternal health. Within the states, there have been cuts at the local government level as well - cities apparently having some responsibility for healthcare in the US system. And the result is dead women.

This is third world stuff, so bad that it has been labelled a continuous violation of human rights by Amnesty International. But its what happens when you have a rich country full of poor people, which focuses on bailing out bankers rather than ensuring the basic dignities of modern life to its entire population.