The global health problem that I chose to focus on is the infant mortality rate in China. Economic disparity within the healthcare system is a major contributor to this increasing rate. Maternal healthcare is an ongoing issue for the women of China. Policies that have been set in place do not provide women with healthcare coverage so most of them are without healthcare. This means that if they want to have children within the hospital, they will have to pay for this service out of pocket so most chose not to. This leads to infections and complications during child birth that contributes to the growing rate of infant mortality. Political influence has also aided in contributing to this health problem. According to the authors Chen, Xie, and Lui, “Recently concerns have been growing about the effects of the target-based one-child policy that restricts the number of children women can bear…” (pg. 162). In order to control overpopulation, the government has implemented a one-child per household law that requires a fine to be paid if more children are had without approval. It was also believed that by only have one child that this would cut down the on the infancy mortality rate but instead is has actually increased the rate. This restriction has made women fearful of going to the hospital and receiving care due to the possibility of being fined for additional pregnancies so more children are being had a home in non-sterile conditions. Finally, cultural practices and beliefs in conjunction with the political restriction have played its part in infant mortality. Son preference, the preference for only male children, has been the leading cause of female infant mortality is India, South Korea and China especially for families that have scare resources (pg. 162). Women do not want to waste their money on healthcare and fines associated with additional children on girls so healthcare is only being sought if there is a possibility of a boy being born.
To address this issue, the government is trying to provide a solution that they believe will help maintain the policies in place as well as lower the infant mortality rate. The provision of more policies that will help women afford healthcare has been put into motion with hopes that this will encourage more hospital visits. However, the policies are slightly flawed. “However, while the new health insurance policy is expected to improve access to health care and to enable uninsured mothers to give birth in hospital, it is intended mainly to help cover the costs of medical emergencies, “(pg. 162).
An anthropologist that is studying this topic is assistant professor, Mrs. Zhuochun Wu. Mrs. Wu has assembled a team of research assistants to study perinatal mortality in rural parts of China. In order to study the mortality rates, they are utilizing the local civil registration data that is taken by each town to ensure that residents are adhering to the one-child policy. From this registry, each pregnancy is recorded as well as the number of abortions, stillbirths, early neonatal mortality and perinatal mortality. In part of her research it is noted that women are required to have a pregnancy test every 2 to 3 months and if they are pregnant and have utilized their one child restriction then women are encouraged to have an abortion from fear of being fined and loss of jobs or demotion. An emphasis is also placed on the healthcare system. In many of the smaller counties and townships, healthcare prenatal healthcare is not provided and all births are left to midwives (Wu 2003, 1319).
Jiajian Chen, Zhenming Xie and Hongyan Liu. Son Preference, Use of Maternal Health Care, and Infant Mortality in Rural China, 1989-2000. Population Studies.Vol. 61, No. 2 (Jul., 2007), pp. 161-183.
Wu etal. Perinatal mortality in rural China: retrospective cohort study. BMJ 2003;327:1319