Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is this what they mean by "progress"?

Preparing for one of my panels at WisCon, I came across this dismaying news:
Women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries, according to a new report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, by Amnesty International. And while countries around the world are fighting to reduce maternal mortality to meet Millennium Development Goal 5, maternal mortality ratios have more than doubled in the US from 1987 to 2006.

The report states: "The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this… 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."

As Sarah Boseley writes in The Guardian, “The damning report comes in a year of unprecedented international effort to reduce the death rate among mothers in developing countries, which will include a major conference called Women Deliver in Washington in the summer. The cause has been taken up by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Sarah Brown in the UK.”

When it comes to healthcare in the US, the lives of poor, uninsured, African American and Native American women are put at a much higher risk. There are severe obstacles that women in the US face when attempting to get necessary services, including: discrimination; financial, bureaucratic and language barriers to care; lack of information about maternal care and family planning options; lack of active participation in care decisions; inadequate staffing and quality protocols; and a lack of accountability and oversight.

While the report highlight the rise in maternal deaths, it also reveals that severe pregnancy-related complications that nearly cause death – known as near misses – are rising at an alarming rate as well, increasing by 25% since 1998. Currently nearly 34,000 women annually experience a "near miss" during delivery.

Read more here, including Amnesty's suggestions to the US Government for how to address this problem.

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