Saturday, September 10, 2005

Third World Poverty in the USA

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/article311066.ece

The Independent reported, 8 September 2005, that a UN report on global inequality has shown that parts of the United States are as poor as the Third World.

The document was written by Kevin Watkins, the former head of research at Oxfam.

The report reveals that the infant mortality rate has been rising in the US for the past five years - and is now the same as Malaysia. America's black children are twice as likely as whites to die before their first birthday.

Decline in health care

Child mortality is on the rise in the United States

For half a century the US has seen a sustained decline in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. But since 2000 this trend has been reversed.

Although the US leads the world in healthcare spending - per head of population it spends twice what other rich OECD nations spend on average, 13 per cent of its national income - this high level goes disproportionately on the care of white Americans. It has not been targeted to eradicate large disparities in infant death rates based on race, wealth and state of residence.

The infant mortality rate in the US is now the same as in Malaysia

High levels of spending on personal health care reflect America's cutting-edge medical technology and treatment. But the paradox at the heart of the US health system is that, because of inequalities in health financing, countries that spend substantially less than the US have, on average, a healthier population. A baby boy from one of the top 5 per cent richest families in America will live 25 per cent longer than a boy born in the bottom 5 per cent and the infant mortality rate in the US is the same as Malaysia, which has a quarter of America's income.

Blacks in Washington DC have a higher infant death rate than people in the Indian state of Kerala

The health of US citizens is influenced by differences in insurance, income, language and education. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to give birth to a low birthweight baby. And their children are more likely to become ill.

Throughout the US black children are twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

Hispanic Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to have no health cover

The US is the only wealthy country with no universal health insurance system. Its mix of employer-based private insurance and public coverage does not reach all Americans. More than one in six people of working age lack insurance. One in three families living below the poverty line are uninsured. Just 13 per cent of white Americans are uninsured, compared with 21 per cent of blacks and 34 per cent of Hispanic Americans. Being born into an uninsured household increases the probability of death before the age of one by about 50 per cent.

More than a third of the uninsured say that they went without medical care last year because of cost

Uninsured Americans are less likely to have regular outpatient care, so they are more likely to be admitted to hospital for avoidable health problems.
More than 40 per cent of the uninsured do not have a regular place to receive medical treatment. More than a third say that they or someone in their family went without needed medical care, including prescription drugs, in the past year because they lacked the money to pay.

If the gap in health care between black and white Americans was eliminated it would save nearly 85,000 lives a year. Technological improvements in medicine save about 20,000 lives a year.

Child poverty rates in the United States are now more than 20 per cent

Child poverty is a particularly sensitive indicator for income poverty in rich countries. It is defined as living in a family with an income below 50 per cent of the national average.

The US - with Mexico - has the dubious distinction of seeing its child poverty rates increase to more than 20 per cent. In the UK - which at the end of the 1990s had one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe - the rise in child poverty, by contrast, has been reversed through increases in tax credits and benefits.



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