Essay: Maternal Health and Child Issues

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This essay discusses maternal health and child issues. The health of mothers, infants, and children is of critical importance, both as a reflection of the current health status of a large segment of the U.S. population and as a predictor of the health of the next generation.

The health of mothers, infants, and children is of critical importance, both as a reflection of the current health status of a large segment of the U.S. population and as a predictor of the health of the next generation. This focus area addresses a range of indicators of maternal, infant, and child health—those primarily affecting pregnant and postpartum women (including indicators of maternal illness and death) and those that affect infants’ health and survival.

Peggy Vincent chronicles her abundant life as a professional Baby Catcher. The wild ride begins during her nurse training years in the 1960s, when laboring women were expected to lie down, shut up, and submits to whatever drugs and procedures the doctor ordered. A rebellious patient who chants and dances through her contractions–and the hell that ensues when seasoned hospital staffers intrude–lights a permanent fire under Vincent. Her resolve to serve each laboring woman with compassion and respect carries her from obstetrics nurse to head of an alternative birth center within Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California, and eventually into her own private practice as a licensed midwife. Like the most courageous home births, this collection of delivery experiences refuses anesthesia: plenty of bellowing, sweating, bleeding, and pushing accompany nearly all of the more than 40 tales. Tough confrontations with stubborn physicians, panicky labor partners, and one particularly nasty calico cat are dabbed with as many keen insights as Vincent’s quieter, more heart-rending newborn encounters.

In New York State and this nation we have an opportunity to change that; to bring every child into the medical care system to assure an outstanding future. We are ahead of the game in New York because we can build on the success of our subsidized health insurance program for children of the working poor, Child Health Plus.

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