Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Nations can do something about the higher death rate of poor children

This is about poverty and the health of children in "rich" nations. In fact it looks at the death of children, which is a pretty bottom-line measure of health. (My next topic on Israel/Palestine is hard to finish - so for once, I'll speak about something else.) The figure posted here* shows how the relative poverty of a nation relates to the mortality rate of children under five.

For the very few technicians among my few readers, this is obviously an ecological association, but still this makes a strong argument for fighting poverty seriously. Note that "relative poverty" is relative to the country's wealth (below 50% of median household income); it is not an absolute number.

The authors of the commentary,* which is the source of this note, point out that the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and the US all have relative child poverty rates above 25% before (THAT"S THE IMPORTANT PART) any welfare benefits or effects of taxation. Now, after considering the effect of taxation and benefits [effectively socially-progressive** measures] this relative child poverty drops down as follows:
  • France: from 28% to 7%;
  • England, Australia and New Zealand: from about 28% to 15%; and
  • US: from 27% to only 22%.
Now, I'm sure there are pros and cons to "redistributive" income policies. (Remember 'spreading the wealth' during the presidential campaign?) But look at the graph and how this reduced relative child poverty impacts the death of children under five in these five countries. Although the cause-effect is not direct, the US which reduces relative poverty very little compared to France, also has a 33% higher mortality rate for its children. (Of course, another factor is that access to health care is so much better in France particularly for the poor.)***

Certainly, being 'pro-life', we will pay attention to this and consider the value for a nation of actively protecting the poor and equally actively fighting poverty. (For a bit of practical thinking about poverty and 'class', read the very personal account of Robb.)

Peace / Shalom / Salaam, is also found in preserving our children from the aggression of poverty.


* Source: Relative Child Poverty, Income Inequality, Wealth, and Health. Eric Emerson. JAMA. 2009;301(4):425-426.
** The funny thing is that my readers from any country but the US just skim over a word like "socially progressive"; for Americans we're working at reintroducing a sound appreciation for well-designed and managed social programs (yes, we can?)--reversing 25 years of Reaganism and anti-poor policies.
*** Yes I'm happy to brag, when - for once - the French get it right.

1 comment:

David said...

That graph really spells it out, huh?