Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Backing into the future

CDC has released preliminary data on births for 2004. If the conservative ascendancy means we're supposed to be returning to conditions of the past, they're winning.

The percentage of mothers who did not begin to receive prenatal care until the third trimester, or who received no prenatal care at all, rose from 2003 to 2004, from 3.56% to 3.59%. While this is a small increase, it is based on data from 99.1% of live births, not a sample. In other words, the phenomenon is real, there is no confidence interval for it. This number had been falling steadily since 1990.

Of more import, the pre-term birth rate rose by 2%, continuing an upward trend. Even worse, the low birthweight rate rose from 7.9% to 8.1%, also continuing a trend. Low birthweight is the principal factor associated with infant mortality and morbidity. A larger number of multiple births -- probably due largely to fertility treatments -- accounts for only part of these trends.

These are among the most important standard measures of population health, widely used for international comparisons. So there you have it -- we're still spending more and more on health care than any other country, and we're still getting less and less for it in the overall health of our population. Why? That's easy. We have the most inequality of any of the wealthy countries. The rich get richer, and the poor get sick and dead babies. The mistake these babies are making, from the standpoint of getting any political support, is that they are being born. Once they are born, they no longer have a right to life.

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