I was glancing through the Economist Magazine's Pocket World of Figures. We all know (or should) that the USA spends the most on health care (17.9% GDP in 2010). But did you know that the USA is not even listed in the 23 nations with the lowest infant mortality? The one thing all the other nations have in common is a national health plan that covers everyone.
Colorado ranks 23rd out of the 50 U.S. states in terms of our infant mortality rate. We lose 200 more babies every year due to infant mortality than the 1st ranked state – New Hampshire. In the Colorado Health Foundation report linked above, we learn some shocking realities:
“In 2012, the infant mortality rate in Japan is estimated to be 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 6.0 per 1,000 live births in the United States. In 2008, the U.S. infant mortality rate was highest for blacks and American Indians, with 12.7 and 8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively, compared to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births for whites.”
As a Pediatrician, I feel that every child deserves the best start possible. That starts with the health of the mother, good prenatal care and counseling. It should continue with an ongoing relationship with a provider who can counsel the parent(s) to establish the best environment for the growth of the child: nutrition, nurturing, safety, development, vaccination. It is an ongoing process. So what happens when a working family cannot afford insurance? The family does not qualify for one of the publicly funded programs that covers 60% of the American population. Health care is important; but paying premiums plus a huge deductible they can't afford, plus the co-pays, not to mention the drugs if needed, or God forbid, a hospitalization, is more than these folks can endure, never mind pay for.
Too many families miss out on the basic teaching and discussion and discovery that occurs with a well child visit, both for healthy physical and emotional development, regardless the age of the child. In the American profit driven insurance world, "doing" gets rewarded financially for the provider. What we need is to "be there" for all our "kids," young and old. The only way to provide the care that would rank the US at the top for quality, not cost, is with publicly funded, universal health care for all, womb to tomb, head to toe, and everything in between.
Shelley Dworet, MD
President, Health Care for All Colorado