Since its founding in 1872, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has been an advocate of improving the health of all U.S. residents. Every April, the APHA hosts National Public Health Week, a campaign to educate the public on current health issues. This year’s theme is Looking Back, Moving Forward, and its focus is on mental health (Monday), maternal and children’s health (Tuesday), violence prevention (Wednesday), environmental health (Thursday), education (Friday), healthy housing (Saturday), and economics (Sunday).
Tuesday Is Maternal and Children’s Health Day
Although the United States spends more money on health care than any other country, it ranks low in maternal and infant mortality, which are two important indicators of the health of a country in general. Pregnancy complications are common, with 31 percent of women giving birth in the United States experiencing complications. The numbers are especially high for black mothers, who are up to six times more likely to die during childbirth than white mothers. Also, about 25 percent of pregnant women do not receive the recommended number of prenatal medical visits necessary for a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Areas of Concern
During pregnancy, a myriad of existing health risks to women can surface, so getting early care is important. Health risks include:
• High blood pressure and heart disease
• Depression and anxiety disorders
• Violence by a partner
• Genetic conditions
• Sexually transmitted diseases
• Substance abuse, including of alcohol and tobacco
• Excessive or unhealthy weight
• Inadequate nutrition
What Can Be Done?
Increased access to quality health care before and during pregnancy as well as in between pregnancies can shape birth outcomes and improve mortality rates, which is why improving the well-being of mothers and children is an important health goal.
The World Health Organization, in fact, claims that investing resources into health care for women and children benefits society in several ways, including by reducing poverty, by improving economic productivity, and by lessening the burden on health-care systems. Individuals can contact their representatives to advocate for policies promoting women’s and children’s health issues. They can also donate time or money to charities that serve women and children.
In San Diego, the following nonprofit organizations offer support, nutrition, and housing for women and children in need:
• American Red Cross Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program (https://www.redcross.org/local/california/san-diego/about-us/our-work/women-infants-children-wic.html)
• California Food Policy Advocates (https://cfpa.net/)
• Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego (https://www.ccdsd.org/)
• Father Joe’s Villages (https://my.neighbor.org/)
• Feeding San Diego (https://feedingsandiego.org/)
• Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties (https://hasdic.org/)
• Housing on Merit (HOM) (https://housingonmerit.org/)
• Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank (https://sandiegofoodbank.org/)
• Jewish Family Service (https://www.jfssd.org/)
• San Diego Food System Alliance (https://www.sdfsa.org/)
• San Diego Hunger Coalition (https://www.sandiegohungercoalition.org/)
• SDSU Research Foundation Women, Infants, and Children Program (https://sdsuwic.org/)
Women’s and Children’s Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Fortunately, women and children do not appear to be more susceptible to the novel coronavirus’s illness, COVID-19. In fact, the opposite may be true: Women’s survival rates are better than men’s on average. In fact, men make up 60 percent of novel coronavirus cases and 70 percent of the deaths in Italy, with similar statistics coming from China. Reasons may include rates of smoking, preexisting medical conditions, hormones, and protection by the female immune system. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 6 states that of all the COVID-19 cases in the United States, children (ages 17 and under) make up just 1.7 percent, although they constitute 22 percent of the U.S. population.
But pregnant women and infants are still considered at-risk populations and need attention during the outbreak. Those who are pregnant or who have children experiencing the classic COVID-19 symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath should seek immediate medical attention. For information on the dangers of the disease during pregnancy and the risk to children, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pregnancy & Breastfeeding” at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html and the Frequently Asked Questions section at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html.
Sources: ABC News, “COVID-19 Mortality Twice as High for Men in Italy as Women,” https://abcnews.go.com/Health/covid-19-mortality-high-men-italy-women/story?id=69717021; Ars Technica, “CDC Releases First US Data on COVID-19 Cases in Children, https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/04/cdc-reports-data-on-2500-covid-19-cases-in-kids-including-3-deaths/; Los Angeles Times, “ Why Is the Coronavirus So Much More Deadly for Men than for Women?” https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-03-21/why-is-the-coronavirus-more-deadly-for-men-than-for-women; National Institutes of Health, “What Is Prenatal Care and Why Is It Important?” https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/prenatal-care; Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/maternal-infant-and-child-health; San Diego Hunger Coalition, “Hunger Advocacy Network Member Organizations,” https://www.sandiegohungercoalition.org/hunger-advocacy-network-members; World Health Organization, “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health,” https://www.who.int/pmnch/topics/maternal/20100914_gswch_en.pdf.
Photo courtesy CDC.gov.