It's a sign of the times, and not a good one, that many of you might wonder what the health of infants has to do with the economy and the current economic crisis. These modern times are so ill informed and warped in their priorities that obvious connections are no longer recognized or well understood. So here are some thoughts and background for you to contemplate.
For virtually all of human history parents have had many children, and several of them have died young. As recently as the early 1900's this was an unsurprising pattern. Everyone knew a family who had a baby die at birth or soon after. It was a great sorrow and not spoken about, not because people were ashamed of the poor baby, but because that was how everyone was "in the same boat" and coped by feeling sorrow but moving on.
We then had tremendous health breakthroughs in the middle 1900's where prenatal care was better understood and provided, hospitals provided rapid response to problem births, and people began to learn how to treat many birth defect conditions and other problems that put a baby's life at risk.
I don't know if young people today know the old expression of relief that new parents would express, saying "As soon as he or she was born we counted all his or her fingers and toes." This is from the time when there was no sonogram or other prenatal diagnosis of fetal health, and upon first sight virtually all parents "checked" the hands and feet of their newborn for all the fingers and toes. Birth was a time of suspense because as I said, everyone knew a family who had lost a baby in birth or in young childhood and the counting the fingers and toes was a kind of "laughing in the dark" ritual that accompanied the sigh of relief when a birth was healthy and successful.
Humans have a horrible problem of back sliding, though. One would assume that infant health would only get better and better as society and technology "progressed," but it has not. For example, just as infant prenatal and post natal doctor care improved, women took up smoking cigarettes. Women did not smoke, either while pregnant or normally, until pretty recently. So in a way, much of the health of infants that was achieved through technology progress was canceled out by women taking up cigarette smoking. A study announced today shows that women who smoke while pregnant put their children at higher risk of being aggressive. That is a risk factor that simply did not exist throughout human history, just to give you one example. During more socially prurient times mainstream women did not smoke cigarettes, drink or take illegal drugs, including marijuana. Thus on the one hand women gained the benefits of prenatal care and more prosperous lives in which to have safer births (housing, heating, vaccinations, antibiotics, for example). However, on the other hand, "liberated" women started putting substances into their bodies both before and during pregnancy. See, I am not explaining this to blame, but to educate especially the young people about why things change the way that they do in human social and medical history. As having babies became safer women (and the fathers) accelerated their unsafe choices that canceled out much of the progress.
Further, lifestyle and environmental situations changed around all humans, both those having children and not. For example there is a huge influx of food additives, chemicals such as in plastic, medication and hormones that are in the drinking water, and toxins in the air and even more insidiously in the household. Again, the health gains of safer prenatal care and post birth delivery and treatment of any birth defects or conditions has been canceled out by the acute toxicity of the environment. In my time I have witnessed houses that used to be made out of natural materials (wood, stone, brick, etc) be replaced by houses made out of artificial chemically produced and "treated" materials. People were slow to recognize that humans have built two generations of "sick buildings." Upholstery and carpet used to be made from cotton and wool. Now it is filled with toxic material. We used to wash our bodies and homes with soap and water. Now the "cleansers" are worse than the dirt and those that kill germs only breed stronger and stranger germs to replace them.
So now we see all sorts of mysterious physical, emotional and mental reactions in babies and children and lots of them look like "allergies." The asthma crisis of several decades ago should have been the first wake up call. Mold and the dander and leavings of vermin such as roaches are a large contributor to the asthma crisis. But now it is even more insidious because even the "cleanest" modern house is filled with toxins. Just as an example, those expensive lovely granite countertops in the finest homes sometimes emit radiation. Scented products are no longer scented by the actual flower or herb but potentially toxic chemicals. So your "cinnamon"candle does not have cinnamon but a chemical that is "derived" from or "smells like" cinnamon.
Thus there is a confluence of three tragic things:
1) People have very high and unrealistic expectations about the health and survivability of all of their children since they only remember the good times where people could take it somewhat for granted, and thus forget that there has always been a real risk of losing a child to death or being presented with very serious life curtailing conditions.
2) People have unwittingly canceled out much of the progress in infant and child health by engaging in optional activities (drugs, drinking, smoking) or enduring unwittingly enforced (surrounded by toxic products) high risk conditions.
3) People have not invested their economy's wealth into addressing these problems and promoting the best of healthcare, free healthcare, for all pregnant women and their fetuses, and their born infants and growing children.
So here is the economic kicker. No economy thrives or survives that is not based on a high child bearing population.
"It's not the spending, stupid."
People think that "spending" is the key to the successful western economy. It is NOT. The key to the (previously) successful western economy was an economy that was highly child and child birth oriented.
The "baby boom" was a great time, not because babies were born with charge cards and thus we had "more spenders."
The "baby boom" was a great time because genuine economic growth and thriving relies on lots of people having lots of children and building child friendly communities and thus jobs.
Where there are many children there were investments in health care facilities, schools, infant and child clothing and products, nutrition industries... you name it.
What is key is that these were lasting products. A school is not a video game.
This country has invested in total trash for thirty years now while losing all the gains of "progress" regarding our infants and children.
I do not understand how the economy can survive and recover, especially in the form of the "faux capitalism" that I've explained previously that has ruined genuine capitalism, if it does not reform to have a new orientation toward the having of children in families.
We lack babies, we lack children, we lack jobs, we lack health care for those who do have children, we have more, not less, troubled children with grave medical or emotional woes, we have less healthy communities that are structured around schools and family place of worship, and ultimately we have less workers and people who participate in the grassroots life and growth of the economy.
While people are yapping about "carbon credits" they are letting their babies (if they even had any) crawl on artificial chemically infested surfaces, letting water get polluted, ignoring sewage treatment plant needs, not researching childhood diseases and conditions as much as they could have been, and letting communities that used to be child-centric dissolve into narcissistic enclaves of "self actualizing" garbage oriented "entertainment."
If I were President Elect Obama I would not sign funding for a single "project" that does not have an "invest in our children" orientation, one way or the other.
Healthy or desperately sick, all children should live within a total network of family and community support. I cannot believe the crap that this country has invested its treasure in while parents of sick children lack proper care and have to fight for the smallest of gains.
That's why I believe that there should be free medical care for prenatal and young infants and children and kick the stupid and greedy insurance companies right out of it. I've blogged about this before, presenting my vision and arguments for why this economy will never recover (say nothing of the country's spiritual goodness) if there is not comprehensive and free prenatal (NOT "market driven") preventative and medical care for prenatal to age of majority children, period.
With such a system you would also address the problems that are now plaguing our children, whether asthma, diabetes, obesity, autism, rare or common birth defects, teenage depression and nihilism, addiction etc. All children need in a just and prosperous society comprehensive medical care and a system of preventative medicine that includes components such as vitamins and nutrition.
I don't understand how economists and other "experts" do not realize that a successful economy relies on a vigorous and loving birth rate in a stable child-oriented community structure nationwide, not on "spending" in and of itself.
Meanwhile, start to educate yourselves about the housing materials that you take for granted. We are all living among materials that are hazardous and unnatural and it is only getting worse, not better.
Some of it is "lazy safety" thinking. Rather than being careful around fire and so forth people started pouring "fire retardant" chemicals onto the fabrics and building substances around them. This is just an example of where what looks like a safety "break through" is the addition of needless chemicals. The same with food additives: rather than cook fresh food people eat pounds of "preservatives" in every bite of food that they consume. I remember the days when things were packaged in waxed paper and glass; now it is plastic and God knows what added to the handy packaging for "microwaves."
Think about Korea and Japan, who used to have traditional housing of wood such as bamboo and even paper. As they moved to modern housing they have also had increases in instances such as the recent discuss of Kawasaki syndrome. Japan is a useful study and I've blogged about this before. Breast cancer among Japanese women was extremely rare until the 1960's when those who moved to the USA and also adopted western diet and probably trigger substances in their environment observed that their numbers now converged on what western women experienced.
This country will not "get back to good" unless it becomes child oriented again and we look long and hard at the environmental pollution of home and work place substances, and until we treat all children, sick and well, for free and comprehensively. I get lots of sheer frustration headaches whenever I think about this topic and look at the horrible mess that everyone is in today.