Guest article by Kip Hansen – October 18, 2020
I grew up in a medical household. My father was a leading pediatrician in the Los Angeles, California area. Every day I was greeted with pragmatic, practical news about advances in medicine, public health, and especially the treatment and care of children and their diseases. And every day when my father came home it was clear if he lost a patient that day – he was stoic and realistic, but every lost baby, every child that died crushed a part of him. That was 1950. There was a smallpox vaccine, but almost nothing else. Children were expected to suffer from measles, mumps, chickenpox, and German measles (rubella). We almost all did it. Worst of all was the dreaded risk of polio.
Most children in the United States have weathered the tide of teething well. But the 1950s death toll would be considered scary in the 2020 world.
Dr. Perri Klass reports in a recent article in the New York Times promoting her new book "A Good Time to Be Born":
"Despite the 2020 crisis, parents can realistically expect children born today to survive. It wasn't always the case. "
1800: Demographic research suggests that until at least 1800 more than A third of the children were five years old. Despite estimates in 1800 that involve considerable uncertainty, it is expected that in some countries rates could be as high as one in two children. Let's think about what this meant for the parents of that time. The average woman in 1800 had between 5 and 7 children
Parents likely lost two or three of their children in the first few years of life. Such a loss was not uncommon, but it was the norm for most people around the world.
– "From the everyday to the rarer tragedy – worldwide falling child mortality" by Hannah Ritchie
In North America in the 1950s, 4% of children died before their 5th birthday – that seems horrible today, but in Europe it was more than twice as many. In many parts of the world, one in five or even one in four was common – and in Africa one in three died before they were five years old.
What a difference a generation makes.
Today, fewer than 1% (0.68%) of US children fail to turn 5 – and two-thirds of those mistakes are Newborn deaths (Newborns in old age 0-27 days). That said, by the time a baby gets through its first month, it will most likely be one of the 998 in 1000 who make it to elementary school.
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The majority of these newborn (newborn) deaths are from two causes. Low birth weight and Congenital malformations. Unfortunately, there is often little that can be done about congenital malformations; Something has gone wrong in the genetic material or in fetal growth – some are repairable, some are not. For example, significant advances have been made in the surgical correction of heart problems in newborns, saving many infants who would have died in the past. Premature infants receive support in life-saving neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The prevention of low birth weight and premature births through better and more intensive prenatal care for mothers was successful. This was especially important for very young mothers (under 20), older mothers (40 and older), poor and socially disadvantaged mothers, and mothers with mental and / or emotional problems such as depression, alcoholism, and other substance abuse.
Post neonatally, the most common causes of death are: congenital malformations (such as heart valve problems, malfunctioning internal organs, etc.), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and unintentional injuries (accidents). There has been ongoing advances in dealing with post-neonatal congenital malformations in surgical and other procedures. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement making recommendations for preventing SIDS, stepping up the back-to-sleep campaign, and cutting the number of SIDS deaths by about 40%. Aggressive measures on safety issues affecting children have reduced the number of accident fatalities – for example, safer cot designs, high chair designs, car seats and age-appropriate toys.
As Dr. Klass sums up:
“Together, we as humans changed the game. It took science, medicine and public health, sanitation, engineering and safety laws, and many different types of education and parenting. And it took vaccines and antibiotics, those trailblazers of the 20th century. "
Vaccines and antibiotics
Many readers here are of the "pre-vaccine" generation. We attended elementary schools (kindergarten through 6th grade) in the early 1950s – we are the baby boomers after the Second World War. The oldest of us only got the smallpox vaccines and then got the polio vaccines when they were developed. It gave us immunity to the five most common childhood diseases – but our children have benefited from the new vaccines.
In 1950 the only effective antibiotics were sulfa drugs and penicillin – and both were "miracle cures" that saved countless lives. Most of today's antibiotics or their precursors were developed between 1940 and 1962. These drugs keep our children alive when their bodies become infected with infections they have not yet developed adequate defense against. If these antibiotics are not readily and cheaply available, infant mortality will be unacceptably high.
The role of Public sanitation Child mortality prevention is seldom understood by the public in modern Western societies such as Europe, Japan, ANZO, and the United States. You have to have experienced the conditions in the poorer areas of third world countries to really get it. My local water department issued a "boil water order" last week because a water pipe broke and lowered general pressure in the network, which "possibly" had a tiny amount of groundwater in the water system. Compare this to: no clean, safe drinking water (unless purchased in a plastic bottle), no flush toilets, no running water (cold or hot) for washing hands, washing dishes, or bathing. Every time it rained, secrets and animal waste were washed into the local drinking water supply. Rampant malnutrition or malnutrition in childhood and houses without windows or window bars, open to mosquitoes and all the diseases they spread, make the situation worse. These factors, coupled with no or few local health clinics – or a health clinic with no available drugs – lead to a still sadly high infant mortality rate in less developed areas, despite improvements over the past 70 years.
Those interested in humanitarian efforts to "save the children" should focus their donations on organizations specifically addressing these issues: safe drinking water, local health clinics and vaccinations for children, public sanitation and mosquito-borne disease programs .
But for the vast majority of those reading here who live in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia / New Zealand, as well as in the more developed parts of other nations:
“Believe it or not, even in 2020, parents in the United States and many other countries, not just the richest, will be some of the happiest parents in history. For the most part, we can hope and even expect our children to grow up, and we live in a society that is shaped and shaped by that expectation. And for all the fears and horrors of this present moment, as parents we are indeed on the happy side of a chasm that separates us from the parents who came before. "- Dr. Perri class
It is a good time to be born indeed
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I greet every newborn child I meet with the greeting: “Welcome aboard!” With the knowledge that the ship of life that you have boarded is much safer, friendlier and more just than the one I was before climbed on board for many years. It is not a perfect world, but with faith and hard work, almost all of them will try and have a good life.
The madness of the moment will pass sometime, likely shortly after the upcoming US presidential election, and things will return to their pre-pandemic boom terms.
My father, the pediatrician, said to every new mother with a new baby in her arms: "This is a beautiful baby!" I do the same in his honor because it's true – every baby is a "fine baby".
Yes, there are other worthy projects helping children: Poverty Vitamins, Deworming Drugs, and Vitamin A Programs that support basic educational programs with school kits and program materials, and vision programs for children. I've been involved in all of these and have seen great success.
If your comment is meant for me, please start it with "Kip -" so I don't miss it. Many Thanks.
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