Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
i agree.  But you have to dig behind the numbers to understand the root causes, so they can actually be fixed.  for example, note some of the dialogue around infant mortality in the US--VLBW and LBW babies, according to the report behind the numbers, were a big factor in the change.  That is a normal outcome of babies born to mothers on drugs--if that is the case, and I'm not sure but intuitively think it is--based on some personal experience around neonatal icu's.  so if the root cause is drug use, what programs are needed to fix that--it's complex.
by wchurchill on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 12:26:52 PM EST
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And what is the root cause of widespread drug use?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 12:59:20 PM EST
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because America is so degenerate and immoral, and pedaling their evil ways around the world?
by wchurchill on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 02:09:31 PM EST
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Ha, ha. Not funny.

I am serious. Is drug use a cause, or a consequence, of poverty, or is it neither? Drug abuse does not need to be a societal problem, but it becomes one when a whole community is touched by it, and with the violent crime associated with illegal drug trafficking. But again, what are the causal relationships?

And now, going back to dark humour, isn't it the case that the CIA financed itself in the 1970's by getting involved in drug dealing in America's inner cities?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 02:25:40 PM EST
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lol.  great comment.  I agree with your points on drug usage--a difficult answer to get at.  and we all neec some occassional black humor.
by wchurchill on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 05:37:29 PM EST
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Drug use rises in war zones and during prohibitions (putting the supply in the hands of criminals who have no qualms about creating addicts to increase demand).

And I don't know about the 1970s situation, but the CIA and our own government were complicit in allowing drugs into the country during Iran-contra during the 80s.  Award winning investigative journalist Gary Webb documented some of this again in 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News which debuted it with an interactive website which was soon taken down.

Narco News has put the site back online.  It has the original series and also the supporting documentation.  The website is here:

Dark Alliance

I also wrote about it when it came online again.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 06:16:01 PM EST
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in the US has been increasing even after correcting for VLBW and LBW babies, while it has been still decreasing in Europe despite similar numbers of VLBW babies. So that particular explanation does not hold. (I am sorry I do not have a source at hand, but it was discussed on dKos).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 01:30:42 PM EST
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this would be interesting to research in some of the medical journals.  unfortunately that would take quite a bit of time.  my personal experience on this is 10 years old.  it would be interesting to understand why Europe would be better with similar numbers on these tinier babies.
by wchurchill on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 02:15:13 PM EST
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Infant mortality is usually defined (correct me if I'm wrong) as the fraction of children born alive who die in their first year of life. Obviously low birth weight is a factor, but post-natal care would seem to be very important as well.

So maybe there are two factors that conspire to increase the infant mortality rate among low-income Americans: higher prevalence of LWB and inadequate access to post-natal health care. Either one of the two factors by itself might not cause a substantial increase in infant mortality.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 03:32:08 PM EST
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Looks like you're right Migeru.  here's some other information, though the statistics must be old, because they don't mention the worsening of infant mortality in the States.  I found the emboldened paragraph interesting in the sense of helping us better understand this.  The point on problems with access to health care is very concerning.  (I'm not yelling, just don't know another way to accent than these two)
Definition of Mortality, infant

Mortality, infant: The death of an infant before his or her first birthday.

The infant mortality rate is, by definition, the number of children dying under a year of age divided by the number of live births that year. The infant mortality rate is also called the infant death rate.

The infant mortality rate is an important measure of the well-being of infants, children, and pregnant women because it is associated with a variety of factors, such as maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices.

In the United States, about two-thirds of infant deaths occur in the first month after birth and are due mostly to health problems of the infant or the pregnancy, such as preterm delivery or birth defects. About one-third of infant deaths occur after the first month and are influenced greatly by social or environmental factors, such as exposure to cigarette smoke or problems with access to health care.

The infant mortality rate in the US, which was 12.5 per 1,000 live births in 1980, fell to 9.2 per 1,000 live births in 1990. However, in 1999 it was reported that "Over the past 8 years, the death rate among black infants has remained nearly 2.5 times that among white infants." (Pediatrics 104: 1229-1246, 1999.)

The US Government ChildStats Health Indicators include the following additional information about the infant mortality rate:

The 1997 infant mortality rate for the United States, according to preliminary data, was 7.1 deaths per 1,000 births, substantially below the 1983 rate of 10.9.
Infant mortality data are available by mother's race and ethnicity through 1996. Black, non-Hispanics have consistently had a higher infant mortality rate than white, non-Hispanics. In 1996, the black, non-Hispanic infant mortality rate was 14.2, compared to 6.0 for white, non-Hispanics.
Infant mortality has dropped for all race and ethnic groups over time, but there are still substantial racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality. In 1996, black, non-Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native infants had significantly higher infant mortality rates than white, non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander infants. In 1996, infant mortality rates varied from 5.2 among Asian/Pacific Islander infants and 6.1 for Hispanics, to 10.0 among American Indians/Alaska Natives.
Infant mortality rates also vary within race and ethnic populations. For example, among Hispanics in the United States, the infant mortality rate ranged from a low of 5.0 for infants of Central and South American origin to a high of 8.6 for Puerto Ricans. Among Asians/Pacific Islanders, infant mortality rates ranged from 3.2 for infants of Chinese origin to 5.8 for Filipinos.

by wchurchill on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 05:34:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What seems to make more difference to birth weight in the developed countries is maternal stress in pregnancy. A study of 2,378 women in Missouri found that mothers of LBW babies are more likely to give histories of stressful pregnancies (Sable and Wilkinson 2000).There is also evidence that if you stress animals in pregnancy, they have smaller offspring (Drago, Di Leo, and Giardina 1999). Some of the mechanisms ... are now understood. For instance, anxious mothers seem to have reduced uterine blood flow (Texeira, Fisk, and Gloves 1998).
Mothers stressed in pregnancy have higher cortisol levels and there is a strong correlation between maternal and fetal cortisol, which shows that babies are affected by maternal stress before birth (Gitau et al 1998).
From Richard Wilkinson, The Impact of Inequality, 2005.

Drug abuse (alcohol and tobacco included) may be causal factors in low birth weight, but they themselves are symptoms:

Many women who use drugs have faced serious challenges to their well-being during their lives. For example, research indicates that up to 70 percent of drug abusing women report histories of physical and sexual abuse. Data also indicate that women are far more likely than men to report a parental history of alcohol and drug abuse. Often, women who use drugs have low self-esteem and little self-confidence and may feel powerless. In addition, minority women may face additional cultural and language barriers that can affect or hinder their treatment and recovery.
From a National Institute on Drug Abuse Factsheet

It would seem fairer to look at the overall situation of young women in multi-generational poverty, at the psychological price of poverty, than to pinpoint drug abuse as the core of the problem. (Though a problem of course it is.)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 02:52:03 PM EST
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