While Wisconsin is a great place for healthcare, it still finds itself in a relatively poor situation when it comes to maternal healthcare. Racine remains one of the cities with high rates of infant mortality that contribute to a statewide problem, according to a story by the Journal Sentinel.
These high rates point to wider issues with the overall maternal healthcare system; rectifying the issue requires problem-solving and a greater attempt to bring about equality.
Birth Issues and Cerebral Palsy
Poor quality of life for mother and child can come about due to less than adequate healthcare. A frequent symptom of this is cerebral palsy. A cerebral palsy attorney pursues cases of potential medical negligence and malpractice, as developing the disorder is linked to poor healthcare at the time of birth. To make their case, they rely on medical research.
The CDC notes, a significant proportion of CP cases are due to lack of oxygen during delivery, which often is a problem caused by the hospital. Therefore, improving in-hospital care is a quick and straightforward way to improve infant mortality and illness rates. Improving capacity would go a long way in countering the issues at hand.
As TMJ4 highlights, the lack of beds and proper care in hospitals has been put into clear focus by coronavirus cases. While there are no states that could have come properly equipped for the pandemic, it is notable that hospital capacities continue to strain under cases even as the pandemic wanes. Providing more beds, and finding jobs for more healthcare professionals, will help to iron out the mistakes and stresses that lead to life-changing birth issues.
Improving Healthcare Workers
Improving hospital capacity is important, but it cannot come without the requisite professionals to man the beds and wards and provide that care. Unfortunately, with pay on the decline and the working environment becoming seriously more stressful since the pandemic, it’s becoming difficult to find workers.
Worker shortages are forecast in every state; according to Reuters, this led to the National Guard providing key healthcare assistance throughout Wisconsin in February. WPR reports that hospitals are now going over-budget to offer huge bonuses to doctors willing to enter the public health system, whether from private practice or graduation. With fewer seasoned professionals in positions where they can help women, problems already endemic to the health system and the health of pregnant women are further exacerbated.
Identifying Key Problems
Besides congenital disabilities and sleep problems, the number one cause of infant mortality in Wisconsin is prematurity. This single factor accounts for over 50% of infant deaths, according to the AHA Trustee Services.
Tackling premature birth requires a multifaceted approach. The mother must be healthy, taking care of issues such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. The environment must be healthy as well. For example, second-hand smoke can contribute to premature birth and stress. Essentially, mothers need calm, collected and healthy environments while pregnant.
Another key factor is nutrition. As the USDA ERS highlights, large areas of Wisconsin – central Racine included – are a long way from good quality food shops. Informally known as food deserts, these areas rely on low-quality, low-calorific value snacks and stores to obtain nutrition. This is detrimental to a baby’s development, the health of the mother, and the health of the family. There are common factors behind the location of these food deserts. Often, these factors are tucked away behind inequality.
It’s worth remembering that there’s a big racial divide regarding infant mortality rates. State statistics indicate that infant mortality is roughly three times higher in black American communities than compared to white American communities.
This is inequality – in education, employment, and community support. To create real long-term change that improves the state of healthcare and prevents infant mortality rates from rising, social justice is required – including for Racine and its 17,000 black residents. There are ways to make quick changes.
The Post Crescent highlighted efforts by state legislators to expand various forms of child healthcare protections to become statutory, rather than optional. Unfortunately, decision-makers vetoed this decision, making Wisconsin one of only 11 states without these protections. This has disproportionately impacted minority families within the state, who would have stood to have benefited the most from these changes.
Solving the Wisconsin infant death question is not simple. It will require changes in hospitals and the drafting of thousands of new healthcare professionals. While building a standard level of care is important, it needs to come with wider societal change, too. Rampant inequality has created a situation where minority groups are at a far greater risk of infant mortality than the rest of the population due to uneven access to amenities and even food. The state and its decision makers need to take action now.