Two articles written by very different sources should be required reading, as they ring further alarm bells that we must heed here in the US. The first was written by Former Speaker of the House and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich urging Congress to double the budget to fund the National Institutes of Health. A link to a summary of the article follows: http://medcitynews.com/2015/04/newt-gingrich-urging-gop-congress-double-nih-funding/comment-page-1/.
The second was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/.
The Gingrich article addresses an issue that is facing all humans on earth. We are facing new strains of anti-bacterial resistant illnesses that are proving very elusive and adaptive. This has always been the case, but we have had the ability to create new anti-bacterial drugs. Yet, with are prevalent use of these drugs in humans and livestock, we are finding a more uphill climb. And, it is not just anti-bacterial drugs that need creating. Pandemic illnesses like Ebola or bird flus place our population at risk and funding is needed to create vaccines and sera.
The key is pharmaceutical companies are investing in more recurring drugs that are more profitable and investing less in cures for rarer illnesses or something that can fix a problem with one prescription dose. So, this a great example where government funding in NIH must play a huge role. They must invest in research that may not have the same kind of Return on Investment that a recurring drug might have. Gingrich is dead on accurate to raise this issue as a major concern and it should be heeded. The alternative is not a judicious path to follow.
The Paquette articles focuses its title on Mississippi, but that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.
In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.
As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. But, we need to finish the job in about twenty states who are seeing the worst child and mother health results that have tended to not expand Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. I have said before that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.
Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth fighting, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support more NIH funding at the national level and support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals to help people and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important.