Article originally featured in the Salt Lake Tribune.
A good measure of a nation’s health care system is the preterm birth rate, since regular visits to an obstetrician or nurse midwife prevent pregnancy complications that lead to premature births.
We now have reliable estimates on worldwide preterm birth rates, as recently reported in The Lancet, one of the world’s most respected general medical journals.
For 2010, the United States was one of the 10 countries with the highest rate of preterm births, along with Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malawi, one of the poorest nations on earth, has the highest worldwide rate (18 percent), but it is almost equaled by the 17.5 percent rate for black American mothers-to-be, nearly one in five births.
The overall annual U.S. 12 percent rate of prematurity compares poorly with the 5 percent rate for northern European countries that enjoy universal health care.
The unexpected vote of Chief Justice John Roberts affirming the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act has been analyzed to the point of exhaustion. Perhaps Roberts simply responded to his moral beliefs concerning our obligation as a nation to those who cannot obtain health insurance.