I literally shouted expletives at my TV yesterday morning as I drank my coffee and watched the morning news. In an appalling display of hypocrisy, first lady Laura Bush landed in Abu Dhabi to promote breast cancer awareness in the Middle East.
Why hypocrisy? Because domestically, the United States fails miserably to meet its own health care targets, especially when it comes to women's and children's health issues.
In the 2007 edition of "Making the Grade on Women's Health: a National and State-by-State Report Card," the National Women's Law Center documents progress—or, more accurately, lack of progress—on the Healthy People 2010 initiatives for women's health set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2000. Looking at 27 benchmarks—from life expectancy to poverty to reproductive health—the report repeats its 2004 "unsatisfactory" grade for the U.S. as a whole. Once again, not one state achieved "satisfactory" status, though three states (Vermont, Minnesota and Massachusetts) received "satisfactory minus" scores, down from eight states that managed the dubious score in 2004. In this year's report, Mississippi ranks dead last—No. 51—as it did in the previous report.
Nationwide, it's a case of one step forward and three steps back. "The three goals met by the nation, the percentage of women age 40 and older across the country getting mammograms regularly, the number of annual dental visits, and the additional achievement of the percentage of women age 50 and older who receive screenings for colorectal cancer, represent important milestones for women," the authors write in the report's key findings. "However, the nation now fails to meet 12 of the 27 indicator benchmarks, up from nine in 2004."
The one benchmark all states managed to meet in 2007, as in 2004, was regular dental visits. No state hit the benchmarks for health insurance, pap smears, obesity, eating five fruits and vegetables a day, high blood pressure, diabetes, life expectancy, infant mortality rate, poverty or the wage gap. Benchmark failures added to the 2004 list for all states this year were pap smears and obesity.
Save the Children, meanwhile, released its 2007 http://www.savethechildren.org/newsroom/]"State of the World's Mothers" report, focusing this year on infant mortality, or saving the lives of children under 5. It should come as no surprise that the report lists developing nations—mostly without access to even basic health-care services—as the countries with the highest infant mortality rates. What should surprise us is where the U.S. stands on the list: No. 26, tied with Croatia, Estonia and Poland. 14 industrialized nations rank lower than the U.S., all in Eastern Europe and most part of the former Soviet Union. Scanning the list, it looks like all industrialized nations ranking higher than the U.S. offer "socialized" or universal health care.
In the U.S., only Wyoming exceeds Mississippi with the number of babies dying before their 5th birthday.
It shames me to see how cavalierly we preach the gospel of health care to the world when we can't manage to lift up our own populace. It should shame us all.
Laura Bush could have come to Mississippi and talked about breast cancer but it wouldn't do a bit of good. A surpising number of women refuse to get mammograms, even those that are insured. Then there are those who would get one, but have no means to pay for it.
Imagine what that 100 billion or so we are spending in Iraq every year could do for the health care system in the US...
Interesting article, I'd say Mrs. Bush's visit was worth it after reading it.