Kansas Scores Victory for Abortion Rights

In the first statewide referendum after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Kansas voters overwhelmingly voted to protect abortion rights. Before yesterday’s primaries polls suggested an abortion ban would ultimately prevail in Republican-led Kansas. Still, even in some of the most conservative counties, “no” votes outpaced overall votes for Republican candidates. 

With a massive primary voter turnout of 800,000 the “no votes” won by over 17% with only 96% of votes counted thus far. 

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New Documentaries About the Maternal Health Crisis, Sex Trafficking Coming to VOD This Year

When I want to learn more about a subject I always turn to documentaries. They provide a quick way to get the facts and crucial information about an issue I am interested in and then if I want to learn more I turn to other resources including books, news articles, research papers, and the like.

While I know a considerable amount about two new documentaries coming to video on demand (VOD) this year, I know some don’t and can use these as jumping points to learn more about the maternal health crisis in the United States and sex trafficking around the world.

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U.S. Support of Formula Over Breastfeeding is a Race Issue

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The formula industry has responded to the decline in sales to white women at home by ramping up its marketing to Black and brown women overseas.
(Shutterstock)

Andrea Freeman, University of Hawaii

When the United States threatened Ecuador with trade and aid restrictions if it did not withdraw a World Health Assembly breastfeeding promotion resolution that most people considered benign, if not banal, reactions ranged from shocked to amused.

Experts explained that the U.S. resistance, although extreme, was nothing new. The United States previously demonstrated its allegiance to the formula industry by refusing to sign on to the World Health Organization’s Ban on the Marketing of Breast Milk Alternatives.

This U.S. stance, like its intimidation of Ecuador, flew in the face of near universally accepted medical and scientific research proving that breastfeeding saves lives. Perhaps even more surprisingly, both acts perpetuate an alarming racial divide in breastfeeding rates that leads to significant racial health disparities. American support of the formula industry comes at the cost of the health and lives of Black and brown babies, at home and abroad.

Both the resolution and the U.S. opposition to it stemmed from a decline in formula sales in the United States. The industry has sought to make up for its considerable domestic losses on the global market. The racial aspects of this local-global dynamic are hidden in plain sight.

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Preventers of Maternal Deaths in the US Could Receive Millions in Funding

The relatively large number of American women who die due to childbirth is one of the little-known facts in our country. In a nation where we spend exorbitant amounts on healthcare, we have the highest maternal mortality rate of any other developed country. Word, however, is getting out that women are increasingly susceptible of dying during childbirth with a surge in articles in major publications and of hospitals, healthcare workers, and researchers working together to solve this problem.

According to ProPublica, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted this week to request $50 million in new funding for programs aimed at reducing maternal mortality. $38 million would be allotted to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau which is run by the Health Resources & Services Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading “Preventers of Maternal Deaths in the US Could Receive Millions in Funding”

Can Fitbit Help Kids Gain Steps and Lose Weight?

Around 17 percent of American children from age 2 to 19 are classed as “obese”. That’s a level that has remained fairly steady over the last decade. And it’s growing.

Obesity is measured in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measure that can be used to compare children in terms of their weight. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. For children and teens, BMI is so age- and gender-specific that it is referred to as BMI-for-age. BMI levels among children and teens need to be expressed relative to other children of the same age and gender. Every child is different and that makes it difficult to generalize on something like this.

heart-rate-monitoring-device-1903997_1280Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and gender. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and gender.

To give an illustration, a 10-year-old boy of average height (56 inches) who weighs 102 pounds would have a BMI of 22.9 kg/m2. He would be considered obese because this calculation puts him in the 95th percentile for BMI-for-age. His BMI is greater than the BMI of 95% of 10-year-old boys in his “reference population”.

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Why Save the Children Is Uniquely Suited to Help Kids After Hurricane Harvey

I have worked with Save the Children in some capacity for the past five years whether seeing their work around the world, blogging on pro-bono campaigns or partnering as a consultant. That’s why I can personally vouch for the amazing work they do for the most vulnerable children who have experienced psychological trauma from all-too-routine natural and man-made disasters. Many people think Save the Children … Continue reading Why Save the Children Is Uniquely Suited to Help Kids After Hurricane Harvey

Two Doctors Arrested in Michigan for Performing Female Genital Mutilation

An anonymous tip to federal authorities, cell phone records, and surveillance video have put two doctors behind bars for carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls as young as seven in Michigan. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar are currently awaiting a detention hearing next week. Attar’s wife was also arrested at she and her husband’s suburban Livonia, Michigan clinic on Friday. The girls … Continue reading Two Doctors Arrested in Michigan for Performing Female Genital Mutilation

Despite Differences in Culture, US and India Fall Short in Childbirth in Similar Ways

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Woman in labor, shown with monitors. 

Neel Shah, Harvard Medical School

After eight years of practicing obstetrics and researching childbirth in the United States, I know as well as anyone that the American maternal health system could be better. Our way of childbirth is the costliest in the world. Our health outcomes, from mortality rates to birth weights, are far, far from the best.

The reasons we fall short are not obvious. In medicine, providing more care is often mistaken for providing better care. In childbirth the relationship between more and better is complicated. Texan obstetricians, when compared to their counterparts in neighboring New Mexico, are 50% more likely to intervene on the baby’s behalf by performing a cesarean section. Nonetheless, Texas babies still have a lower survival rate than New Mexican babies.

I long assumed that our most puzzling American health care failures were idiosyncrasies–unique consequences of American culture, geography, and politics. But a trip to India for the 2017 Human Rights in Childbirth meeting led me to a humbling realization: when it comes to childbirth, both countries fall short in surprisingly similar ways.

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Neel Shah, center, pictured with Jishnu Das, a Lead Economist at the World Bank and Leslie Page, President of the Royal College of Midwives. Neel Shah, Author provided

Human rights in childbirth

I take care of patients in at a well-funded teaching hospital in Boston, where pregnant women seem well-respected and have clear, inviolable rights.

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10 Organizations and Birth Centers That Save Black Mothers’ Lives #MaternalHealth (Updated)

Updated June 2020 Today as we celebrate and commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are seven organizations and birth centers that are helping save the lives of black women during pregnancy, childbirth and after childbirth. All maternal mortality and morbidity data in the United States report the same thing: black women die in disproportionately high numbers when compared to non-Hispanic white women. In fact, … Continue reading 10 Organizations and Birth Centers That Save Black Mothers’ Lives #MaternalHealth (Updated)

9 Facts We Learned in 2016 About Maternal Mortality in the United States

Texas has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. (Source) In Texas, cardiac events, overdose by licit or illicit prescription drugs, and hypertensive disorders are the leading causes of maternal death. (Source) White women had the highest rates of diagnosed mental illness of any kind (depression as well as other psychological illnesses) in Texas during pregnancy and the puerperium; Black women had … Continue reading 9 Facts We Learned in 2016 About Maternal Mortality in the United States

Announcing #MaternalHealthChat Starting November 8 With Jacaranda Health

We are very pleased and excited to announce our new weekly chats all about maternal health with some of the leading maternal health experts, researchers, practitioners, and organizations in the world under the #maternalhealthchat hashtag. Starting on Tuesday, November 8 at 1 PM EST with Jacaranda Health we will host 30-minute chats each week all about maternal and reproductive health as well as the health of newborns. We will dig … Continue reading Announcing #MaternalHealthChat Starting November 8 With Jacaranda Health

How and Why Coca-Cola is Restoring Water to Our National Forests

When I stepped out of the U.S. Forest Service SUV after nearly a two-hour scenic autumn drive from Taos, New Mexico to the Carson National Forest, we were standing in an expansive valley so big that huge cows below us looked like mere dots in the distance. We had finally arrived at Valle Vidal, a massive grassy meadow with vistas as far as the eye could see and elevations reaching close to 13,000 feet in Carson National Forest. Even though Valle Vidal is overwhelmingly beautiful to take in its environmental impact is being increasingly hampered by major stream and groundwater degradation that needs immediate remedying in order to protect fish and wildlife as well as to store more ground water for communities downstream.

I was in New Mexico visiting the Carson National Forest with Coca-Cola North America’s sustainability team last week to learn about their water restoration efforts in northern New Mexico as well as the company’s overarching nationwide partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Forest Foundation that replenished 1 billion liters of water to nature and communities reaching 60 million people in the United States. Coca-Cola also recently announced that it has successfully reached one of its principle global sustainability milestones ahead of schedule to effectively balance its water usage in its beverages and production. Coca-Cola has reached its goal five years ahead by replenishing 191.9 billion liters of water across the globe in 71 countries. In the United States, Coca-Cola North America has pledged to double the 1 billion liters of water that it has already replenished by 2018.

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The Troubling Truth About Maternal Mortality in the United States

When everyday Americans think about women dying during childbirth it is probable that their initial thoughts travel directly to Africa where it is quite well known that maternal mortality is rife. Chances are their thoughts never focus on the deaths and near deaths during childbirth that women experience right here in the United States. After all, the overwhelming consensus is that the United States has the best medical care, superior health workers and health system in the world despite some of its inherent challenges. This thinking renders maternal mortality in the US thoroughly inconceivable to many even while data reveal it should not be inconceivable at all. In fact, maternal mortality is on the rise in America having doubled over the past 25 years all while global maternal deaths are steadily declining. Globally, maternal mortality was effectively reduced by 44 percent according to the World Health Organization.

The United States, while not the overall leader in maternal mortality among all countries, it is the leader among all developed nations. The United States ranked number 33 out of 179 countries in Save the Children’s 2015 Mothers’ Index Ranking and 46th in the world due to the rate of women who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Compared to other developed countries, the United States’ ranking is abysmal, especially with Norway, Finland, and Iceland ranking in the top three overall. Even countries like Estonia and Belarus, whose GDPs are considerably lower than ours, far outrank America.

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NYC Report Tackles Maternal Morbidity Rates

For years researchers who study maternal morbidity and mortality have been stumped as to why rates continue to rise and why women of color are adversely affected despite education, health care, and socio-economic factors.

A new report and the first of its kind released in May, New York City 2008 – 2012: Severe Maternal Morbidity, shows the myriad reasons why women of color, especially low-income, Black non-Latina, women fare the worse with severe maternal morbidity (SMM). While most studies in the past across the country focus on maternal mortality, this report focused on maternal morbidity, the causes of maternal mortality.

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