Friday, July 14, 2006

Keeping Abreast

20/20 did a report earlier on the "debate" over breastfeeding. It seems that the federal government has sunk money into a PR campaign to encourage... Breastfeeding. Which means, at the very least, that Halliburton doesn't have a line of baby formulas getting ready to ship.

They've done some rather outrageous commercials for it. One shows two pregnant women logrolling, and yet another shows a pregnant woman riding a mechanical bull. The ad says "You wouldn't take chances with your child before it's born. Why would you after?"

Does anyone see a correlation between a pregnant woman riding a mechanical bull and a loving mother feeding a baby with a bottle? It's an insulting ad campaign.

But even beyond that... How much tax money did they piss away on this that could have gone to something more important?

How about an ad campaign encouraging better prenatal care? Or God forbid, how about skipping the ad campaign and actually FUNDING some prenatal care?

The Memphians reading this site, if they're not aware, should be briefed on something. Most of the local bloggers have discussed Aimee Edmondson's magnificent, award winning series for the Commercial Appeal "Born to Die" about the absurdly high infant mortality rate in the 38108 ZIP code. If you haven't read it, click here for parts I and II. They're magnificent, shining examples of what journalism should be all about. Here's a terrific blog posting from Pesky Fly that discussed the article.

For those who don't feel like clicking the links, allow me to give you a Reader's Digest version: There is a part of this city where the infant mortality rate is four and a half times the national average. In 38108, 31 in 1000 infants born will die. That's a dead baby every 43 hours. The picture accompanying this article isn't from the Killing Fields of Cambodia, nor is it a picture of cleanup from the Rwandan Massacre. It was taken at Shelby County Public Cemetary, the Potter's Field for the indigent of Memphis. It lies in the shadow of perhaps our most magnificent monument to capitalism, the Wolfchase Galleria.

31 in 1000 kids aren't dying in that ZIP code because they didn't take to the teat. They die because babies are giving birth to babies. They die because a doctor's appointment is a status symbol in 38108. They die because due to any number of social factors, their young parents never learned any parenting skills.

And they die because good people hear about the problem, shrug their shoulders, and go on about their day.

Remember all those grass huts you watched get washed away in the tsunami in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago? Their kids are more than twice as likely to live than a child born in a miserably poor section of our own community. In fact, there are 126 nations with better infant mortality rates than 38108. In Ukraine, a child growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl has a better chance of growing up than a baby born in our own community.

So while I find the ad campaign insulting, that's not even what bothers me the most about this. What bothers me the most is that worrying about how a woman feeds her child when here, in our own commmunity, we dig mass graves for newborns feels a little like cleaning the curtains when the house is on fire.


Serrabee said...

Hear, hear, Rick!
It's amazing that, as bad as our infant mortality rate is compared to the national avg., the US is still ranked 22nd, though we pride ourselves on our fabulous national healthcare system (which many of us still can't afford to participate in).
However... breastfeeding is a very important part of child development, so if you can get your kid to survive birth, the HepB vaccination, and the doctors' care, your best defense after that is not formula feeding, but doing it the old-fashioned way.
Plus, it helps you lose some of that baby weight to boot!

Freedonian said...

Thank you, Serrabee.

You'll certainly get no dispute out of me over "breastfeeding is better". It certainly is. I would stop short of comparing formula feeding to log rolling as the commercial did, but I have no doubt that you're right (And speaking as a man, we love it when you guys lose the baby weight).

I just think the ad campaign allows our government to do its two favorite things. 1. Nothing of substance and 2. Pretending they've done something of substance.

the US is still ranked 22nd, though we pride ourselves on our fabulous national healthcare system (which many of us still can't afford to participate in).

Best healthcare system in the world, yet the only way a third of America gets to see a doctor is if they press their noses against the hospital window.

Good to hear from you!