Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care And Infant Mortality: When It Comes To A Population's Health, Statistics Don't Lie

By Manifesto Joe

A commenter on my previous post brought up something often raised in defense of America's indefensible health care status quo. That is the alleged wait time for specialists in Canada. The commenter mentioned, in particular, OB-GYN wait times alleged to be 10 to 12 months.

I rather doubt that as something typical, although I have heard from less biased sources that wait times for Canadian specialists can be up to six months. But regarding OB-GYN wait times, statistics about infant mortality should be revealing. Here are some, courtesy of the United Nations World Populations Prospect report revision of 2006:

Countries with "socialized" medicine:

Japan: 3.2 per 1,000 live births
Sweden: 3.2 per 1,000 live births
Norway: 3.3 """
France: 4.2
Germany: 4.3
Denmark: 4.4
Australia: 4.4
U.K.: 4.8
Canada: 4.8
Cuba: (Those godless commies!) 5.1

And then we have:
United States: 6.3
The U.S. ranks below Brunei (5.5), Cyprus (5.9), and New Caledonia (6.1).

I guess now we know why so many long-suffering Canadians, and so many other people in countries with "socialized" medicine, are clamoring to trade in their government-run systems for the private U.S. monopoly/oligopoly model. Ours is clearly so superior.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Jack Jodell said...

Manifesto Joe, I have seen those numbers before and they are true. It is nothing fot us to be proud of. we do NOT have the best health care in the world; only the most expensive. The numbers don't lie: only conservative Republicans and insurance lobbyists do that. I'm waiting for the greedy insurance companies to start booting new mothers home an hour after childbirth---that'll probably be their next move. They're already booting them out of hospitals far too early anyway!

Vigilante said...

Whad'ya'know, Joe? Healthcare riots could happen in Canada. But it's not like what many Americans might imagine...

Brother Tim said...

As I was reading the post I had a comment in mind, but you covered it in the last paragraph. :)

Anonymous said...

This is so easy. Do you not realize anyone reading this is already connected to the internet and is therefore able to quickly check the facts in your propaganda piece? When Cuba is aborting almost as many babies as they deliver, you would think their ranking would be a little higher, wouldn't you?
He is a link for you.
If you are not properly embarassed and ready to post a retraction and an apology, I will be happy to link a lenghty pda posted by the Congressional Budget Office explaining the differences different countries have in their reporting criteria for live births.
Now if instead of going back to the well of "Amerika sucks and I hate being one of the suckers" how about writing something truly thought provoking about this issue. The US CLEARLY has the best facilities and expertise for keeping low birthweight and premature babie alive. There is no debate about that. But there is a huge problem of low birthweight and preemie babies being born in the black community in the US. Since those are the leading contenders for infant mortality, the question is: "Why are these black women having low birthweight babies?"
Is it because they smoke crack and marijuana? Is it beacuse they consume way too much alcohol and cigarettes despite the warnings? Is it because they are stressed out because black men use them only for sexual release and they tend not to marry black women even if they are carrying their child?
Or is it because black women fail to take advantage of the stellar health care system due to financial disenfranchisement. There is room for a story here, and I would surely find something to gripe about since it will involve shining a spotlight on the fuckedupness of America rather than the fecklessness of the individuals who bring her down. But dude, you post today is boneless as one of those "remarkable things" Bo Pilgrim tried to sell us in the eighties. It just LAYS there!

Manifesto Joe said...

Anon: I just looked up the paradoxically named "The American Thinker" blog and saw a pro-birther post on it. Any blog written by people who still take this wingnut shit seriously -- shouldn't be taken seriously at all. But I'll point out that it's not only the U.N. that reports infant mortality this way. The CIA Factbook reports virtually identical numbers, and I'll furnish those upon demand. They're on the same Web site as the U.N. stats. Somehow I doubt that their fact-checkers have a pro-Cuba, or even pro-U.N., bias.

You go on to make yourself look very bad, to damage your own credibility, by dredging up every racial stereotype imaginable. There's a correlation between poverty (I repeat, poverty) and social problems of all types. Infant mortality is merely one of the problems. But I don't think it takes much brilliance to figure out that better access to health care would be a big positive step in that area. Our health care status quo is clearly failing in that department.

BTW, you can wipe the foam off your mouth now, and don't bite anybody. A lot of folks hate needles.

Manifesto Joe said...

BTW II, Anon -- I, too, have an Internet connection: It appears that the CBO paper you refer to dates back to February 1992, and was prepared at the request of a Republican member of Congress. In other words, old goods that were already damaged upon delivery. Wonder how much health industry lucre this Congress creature had been raking in? I'm sure you don't wonder about such things, so just leave that sort of thing to me.

Tyndall Wildleek said...

Dear Joe,

While I think your rebuttal to Anon was well thought out and presented, and you certainly have a right to call him on his obvious racist remarks, it's like trying to explain individual freedom and reason to a Borg. He or she (with the Borg it’s difficult to tell) has been brainwashed by the lords of loud talk radio and Faux news until there is little room left for individual reason. In their eyes resistance is futile, and they will never be swayed by feelings of compassion or any spark of humanitarianism for those less fortunate than themselves.

Their greatest wish is for everyone to become assimilated to their way of thinking. With them, there are no gray areas; they have the unmitigated hubris to think they're always right. There is no wiggle room. A few are not completely devoid of intelligence, but as Heinlein once wrote: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

The sad part is, many times the most vocal and rabid are the ones who, themselves, could benefit most from a single pay public health option, but they believe everything they are fed and become drones for the mouthpiece's of big Pharma and mega-buck Health Insurance Corporations. They become little more than soulless meat machines spewing unverifiable hearsay or spurious facts, incapable of understanding or imagining a greater ideal for humanity than the tired, top heavy, broken system we have in place today.

Anon's choice of labels for himself seems fitting. He has become one of many indistinguishable Borg-bots (like seven-of-nine) for the far right fringe who are terrified and frustrated, because they can see our country waking up after twenty years of ennui from their unconscionable chicanery and the people refusing to listen to their lies and distorted propaganda anymore.

They had their unfettered way for eight years and never, once, considered bipartisanship. Bush and his minions damn near destroyed our country and personal freedoms. Now is the time to ignore them and forge ahead to encourage progressive thinking for a better tomorrow.

The insanity of ultraconservative thought and the memory of Ayn Rand are slowly dying, but it will not go quietly. She was totally wrong about most things, but one quote of hers comes to mind: “Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves - or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.”

The luxury of good health and reasonable health care costs should be made available to all people in our country, and not just the privileged few who can afford it.

T. Wildleek

Jack Jodell said...

Way to go, Manifesto Joe! You proved how these conservatives do not only lie, but they're fast, loose, and sloppy with their own "research" too. Truth and fact mean nothing to these people: their own prejudices serve as their own reality.

Manifesto Joe said...

Jack, Tyndall and others: I'll belabor a few more points before moving on to a new post.

I actually would have acknowledged that Anon raised a very good point, but his or her lack of civility was a problem. As Tyndall stated eloquently, this attitude is commonplace on the right wing.

There are indeed differences in the way even the developed nations count infant deaths, but not quite apples-and-oranges differences. This is from the Wikipedia discussion of comparing such rates by nation:

The infant mortality rate correlates very strongly with and is among the best predictors of state failure.[3] IMR is also a useful indicator of a country's level of health or development, and is a component of the physical quality of life index. Some claim that the method of calculating IMR may vary between countries based on the way they define a live birth. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a live birth as any born human being who demonstrates independent signs of life, including breathing, voluntary muscle movement, or heartbeat.

UNICEF uses a statistical methodology to account for reporting differences among countries. "UNICEF compiles infant mortality country estimates derived from all sources and methods of estimation obtained either from standard reports, direct estimation from micro data sets, or from UNICEF’s yearly exercise. In order to sort out differences between estimates produced from different sources, with different methods, UNICEF developed, in coordination with WHO, the WB and UNSD, an estimation methodology that minimizes the errors embodied in each estimate and harmonize trends along time. Since the estimates are not necessarily the exact values used as input for the model, they are often not recognized as the official IMR estimates used at the country level. However, as mentioned before, these estimates minimize errors and maximize the consistency of trends along time."[4]

While the United States reports every case of infant mortality, it has been suggested that some other developed countries do not. A 2006 article in U.S. News & World Report claims that "First, it's shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths. In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth; in other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, the fetus must be at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy are registered as lifeless.[5] And some countries don't reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country."[6] However, all of the countries named adopted the WHO definition in the late 1980s or early 1990s.[7]

There are differences, but also methodology that minimizes them.

Regarding the CBO paper that Anon referred to, it appears to have been an objective enough endeavor based on data available in 1992. But I will point out that not only was the congressman who requested the report, Willis D. Gradison Jr. of Ohio, a Republican. The following year he retired from the House and went to work as a PAID LOBBYIST for the Health Insurance Association of America. That would certainly call into question the motives behind this report.

Finally, there's the question of racism. The racial stereotypes from Anon may be revealing in another way. It may be the very reality of discrimination itself that contributes to low-weight and preemie births among African-Americans. Here's a link to a McClatchy Newspapers article: