Alarming U. S. public health statistics raise big questions


In 1848, Rudolf Virchow, famous medical scientist and author of "Cellular Pathology," studied a typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia. He discussed treatment but focused on prevention. "Such an epidemic dissemination of typhus could only have been possible under the wretched conditions of life that poverty and lack of culture had created," he concluded, adding that "the outbreak could not be solved by treating individual patients with drugs or with [other] minor changes, but only through radical action to promote the advancement of an entire population."

For Virchow, health care carried political overtones. "Politics is nothing more than medicine on a large scale," he wrote. Right now, deteriorating U. S. public health may require Virchow-type thinking.

In 1960 combined male and female life expectancy in the United States ranked fifth in the world. In 2000 it had fallen to 24th place, and 10 years later, on September 23, 2010, to 49th.

A Columbia University team exploring this trend "found that unusually high medical spending is associated with worsening, rather than improving, 15-year survival in two groups," men and women at age 45 and at age 65. They speculated that "the nature of our health care system - specifically, its reliance on unregulated fee-for-service and specialty care - may explain both the increased spending and the relative deterioration in survival that we observed." They discounted effects of obesity, smoking, traffic deaths, homicides, and physical inactivity.

The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is the number of pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 babies born. The U.S. MMR for 1987 was 6.6, and for 2006, 13.3. Between 1998 and 2005, complications of pregnancy serious enough to almost cause death increased by 25 percent. In its recent report on U.S. maternal mortality, Amnesty International (AI) said, "Women in the USA have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 40 other countries."

AI suggested that "women who are marginalized or living in poverty" are at particular risk for maternal death, or near death. Of women of reproductive age, 20 percent lack health insurance. Minority women make up over half of uninsured women. Georgia's MMR in 2006 was 20.5, that of Washington, D.C., 34.9, and for black women in New York City the MMR was 83.6. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) views half of all U.S. maternal deaths as preventable. AI identifies increased U.S. maternal mortality as a human rights issue.

U.S. Amnesty International head Larry Cox says, "Mothers die not because the United States can't provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women."

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. infant mortality rate as of 2009 ranked 30th in the world. (The infant mortality rate represents the number of babies dying during their first year of life for every 1000 babies born.) The CDC put the rate for 2007 (the last year its data are available) at 6.5. The ranking again was 30th place, down from 12th place in 1960, 23rd in 1990, and 24th in 2004. Infant mortality reflects families' education, income, nutrition and access to care, and is widely regarded as a marker of social well-being.

It's recently been reported that, as of 2009, 21 percent of American children - one of four rural children - were growing up in poverty. That and pervasive unemployment contribute to a social context setting the stage for ill health. Italian journalist Gennaro Carotenuto took these reports of falling U.S. life expectancy and rising infant mortality rates as signs of "a country plunging rapidly downward" and the "decadence of an empire." He noted other indicators such as high U.S. imprisonment rates, local government cutbacks on public schooling and paved roads, shrinking public transportation, and waning academic achievement.

Physician Virchow, however, would look into causes. Writing for, historian Higinio Polo does go deeper as he surveys a worldwide spectrum of social disintegration. Sickness, extreme poverty and hunger are rampant, yet rich countries are failing to back the UN Millennium Goals of social restoration, set for 2015. Even in "opulent Europe," he notes, "80 million people [are] living in extreme poverty and social exclusion." The problem comes down to "a capitalist system that fleeces the natural resources, destroys life, and condemns to poverty a good part of humanity."

Photo: Rosser321 CC 2.0


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  • The enemies of social,guaranteed medicine need to review these facts set out by W.T. Whitney Jr. ,with Cox,Virchow,Carotenuto,and Polo supporting.
    More importantly,the proponents of socialized medicine in the U.S.,with compulsory,free,and consented care of all;children,women and the elderly,we have to give this information and organize others,armed with this.
    We have taken important steps with health care gains recently,but we agree,we have a long way to go to garner good and better care,"..but because it(the U.S.-e.e.w.clay) lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women."
    Among youth,elderly,and women we have to organize,organize and organize. The austerity that the tea partiers,the Republicans and fascistic right who want to kill many(along with improved health care) to solve problems,including the president of the U.S.(who has improved health care by leaps),the former and current presidents of Cuba(which infant mortalilty rate is the best in the hemisphere),and anyone who might make these facts known,as the broad definition of "terrorist" covers these,as found in Holder v Humanitarian Law Project-and therefore supported by a lethal and reactionary Obama administration policy in national and international law,when it comes to Constitutional and Bill of Rights guarantees here.
    There are grave public health and public welfare issues that flow from this devastating position including the future of our country's health and physical security,as private citizens stand to be "hit"(murdered) with government sanction,coming from the "sense"of Holder v Humanitarian Law Project,both in a strict health policy view and in a Constitutional and Bill of Rights view.
    All organizations and individuals who treasure health care,freedom of speech and association or human rights,need to be mobilized to fight these threats to humankind,whether in the U.S.,Cuba,or Iraq.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 11/03/2010 1:57pm (5 years ago)

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