U.S. maternal health costly, but poor

World Population Day (which is today) was established in 1989 as an outgrowth of the Day of Five Billion, which occurred on July 11, 1987. It is a global observance and not a public holiday.

The purpose of the observation is to raise awareness of the various population issues such as the importance of family planning, including gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.

The Amnesty International report “Deadly Delivery, the Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA” makes the case for better maternal health care for American women.

The introduction to this report informs us, “The total amount spent on health care in the USA is greater than in any other country in the world. Hospitalization related to pregnancy and childbirth costs some $86 billion a year, the highest hospitalization costs of any area of medicine. Despite this, women in the USA have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 40 other countries. For example, the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain. More than two women die every day in the USA from pregnancy-related causes.”

The American public through insurance, taxpayer-funded programs and personal payments are funding a system that is taking more and more money and returning poorer and poorer results. Our health care reform is long overdue. This first step toward insuring more citizens is just that — only a first step.

“Deadly Delivery” goes on to report, “Maternal deaths are only the tip of the iceberg. Severe complications that result in a woman nearly dying, known as a ‘near miss,’ increased by 25 percent between 1998 and 2005.”

We’ve all seen headlines or read about health care disparities, yet that concept hasn’t been real to us. The facts are that “African-American women are at especially high risk; they are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Even for white women in the USA, however, the maternal mortality ratios are higher than for women in 24 other industrialized countries.”

It was safer to give birth in the United States in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s than it is today. If you are of childbearing age, this is important information for you to have. If you are beyond childbearing age, you likely have children and grandchildren who will be planning pregnancies, and you want them to have good, adequate care. The need for improvement in maternal health care in America is of vital importance to all families.

Family Planning Health Services works hard to help women plan and space pregnancies. A crucial part of what we do for people with pregnancies is referring them into medical prenatal care. We want that care to be accessible and of high quality. We want that woman and her family to have the best chance for a healthy outcome for herself and her baby. Thankfully, we feel central Wisconsin medical providers do an excellent job.

Observe World Population Day; discuss the issues with your friends and family. Support the national and local maternal and child health services. Support family planning programs that help women plan for healthy pregnancies and adequate birth spacing. Ask for and expect improvements in maternal health care. We as a nation are all in this together, and we have to work to make our nation healthier and safer. Support maternal and child health services in Wisconsin and in the nation.

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