Roundup: A Labor Day Salute To Labor

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Roundup: A Labor Day Salute To Labor

Robin Marty

For Labor Day, we look at birth in Ghana, racial disparities in the U.S. and what constitutes "sex ed" in Utah.

Labor Day seems like an appropriate time to salute the latest in “labor” news.

First, Ghana is taking a new approach to increasing maternal health — bringing in more midwives.  From GhanaWeb:

Dr. Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, Director in-charge of Human Resource for Health Development of the Ministry of Health (MOH), has advocated the training of more midwives to improve the midwife patient ratio which now stands at 1:7,200. This means that the health sector needs an additional 8,000 midwives to fill the gap if maternal health is to be developed to an appreciable standard.

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Ghana’s maternal mortality rate currently stands at 560 per 100,000 live births while only 43 per cent of births in rural areas are assisted by skilled providers due to inadequate access to Obstetric care. The Director indicated that with the training of adequate midwives, the nation would benefit tremendously as it would enhance access to trained birth attendants, emergency obstetric care, surgical interventions as well as avoiding deaths or disability from complications of pregnancy and child-birth. Mrs. Victoria Bam, Head of Nursing Department, KNUST, proposed to the University to endeavour to admit 30 per cent of the Midwifery students as sponsored students from deprived areas when the Programme starts. This, she said, would go a long way to improve retention of midwives in deprived communities while also increasing access to quality maternal care in those areas.

But Ghana isn’t the only place focusing on the health of women and children: the United States is trying to make a concerted effort, too.  One great risk for infant mortality and future health issues are babies born too early, something occuring more often in the African American community. Now, actions are being taken to tackle the disparity.  From the San Francisco Bay View:

Catherine Spong, M.D., of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development testified before a recent congressional hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to promote legislation on preterm birth and infant death. An analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics found that in 2005, 37 percent of all infant deaths can be attributed to preterm risk factors. Preterm infants are at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and have higher rates of neurological and developmental disabilities in childhood.

The rising tide of the AIDS epidemic among African American women has changed the face of child health in the U.S. Twenty years ago pediatric doctors were skilled in caring for children with bacterial infections that are now preventable in the developing world by vaccines. Today, antiretroviral therapy given to HIV infected women during pregnancy and to their infected newborns can help to eliminate mother to child transmission of an infection that in the 1980’s killed most congenitally infected babies by the time they reached age 5. An infection that continues to kill HIV infected children in the developing nations of the world.

The most significant health care disparity we face in the United States and locally in San Francisco’s southeast sector remains the unforgivable rates of infant death seen in the African American community. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, health care providers who reduce racial and ethnic health disparities in patients can receive incentive payments for demonstrating meaningful interventions that reduce those disparities.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, health care providers who reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, such as the high rates of infant death in Bayview Hunters Point, can receive incentive payments for demonstrating meaningful interventions that reduce those disparities.

The first step involves the collection of data on race, ethnicity and language using an electronic health record system. Using the electronic health record to evaluate and monitor specific disparities can lead to eliminating differences in health care access and outcomes according to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee.

Of course, another group increasingly at risk for pre-term and small infants are teens, creating another need for comprehensive sex-ed in schools. A teen sex-ed activist gives her new college a first-hand account of what “sex ed” is like in schools in Utah.  From the Swarthmore Daily Gazette:

Emma Waitzman: I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah is a very conservative state. In our schools we have abstinence only education. And not only is it abstinence only but it’s also really fear based. So, they’ll show you very vivid pictures of STDs.

Daily Gazette: And pregnancy?

EW: Not pregnancy, but they won’t show you how to prevent STDs. So you just get really scared about it. But the main message that [the administration tries] to get across is abstinence and that it’s a moral thing. The problem is that in Utah, Chlamydia rates are rising at four times that of the national average and gonorrhea rates are rising as well. There are also 12 [new] teen pregnancies a day in Utah.

DG: Yeah, I had read that online during one of your interviews and I was completely shocked, because, at least when I think of teen pregnancy I think of [something in the media] like Juno, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Pregnancy Pact, you know, I feel like it’s become something that the media has dealt poorly with. But to most of us that it’s just not attainable but… did you experience it in your high school?

EW: Yeah, I mean you walk down the halls and you see at least one girl a day who’s pregnant. So, clearly we weren’t getting a good education. And so there was a bill that was going to be in the legislature, HB (House Bill) 189, that was going to change one line in the curriculum. The health curriculum says that you can’t advocate for contraception. This creates a lot of confusion; for instance, one of the teachers of my high school wouldn’t say the word condom. She would just say, you know… “that thing that you might put on [as protection],” and wait for another kid to say, “Do you mean a condom?” She could have said the word “condom,” but the wording is so confusing that teachers just don’t understand [how to communicate with their students]. There was one other teacher [who worked in a conservative part of Utah] that passed out a pamphlet that mentioned something about birth control and a month later she was fired…. It’s a really Mormon state, and it’s in their religion to not have sex until you get married, even though all the people I know who have gotten pregnant are LDS [Latter-Day Saints]. Which is not to say that only people who are Mormon who are getting pregnant, but it’s not just the nonreligious that need sex education.

Mini Roundup: We knew having kids can be expensive, but in Chongqing city it’s even worse, as they unveil a new list of fines for having children outside of wedlock or if you give birth to additional children.

September 5

September 3