Sancti Spíritus achieves 2.8, and five provinces have lower rates than the national average of 4.6. 125,661 births were registered, 7,406 fewer than in 2011 • Women of child-bearing age and their partners urged to make use of family planning services
José A. de la Osa
FOR the last five consecutive years Cuba has registered an infant mortality rate of under five per 1,000 live births, demonstrating the human development index achieved. In 2008 the rate was 4.7/1000; in 2009, 4.8; in 2010, 4.5; in 2011, 4.9; and in 2012, 4.6.
This clear success on the part of the Cuban public health service, the lowest rate in the Americas, has been fundamentally achieved through the commitment and political will of the revolutionary government, which has established a National Health Service that is both accessible and free for all citizens, and through development in education.
Other contributing factors are the dedication and specialist medical training of workers in the sector, integration between primary care provision and hospitals, the existence of Maternity Centers, the technology available for newborns and intensive pediatric therapies, a social awareness health program, and the right of women to freely choose the number of children they want to have.
Infant mortality rates are recognized as a demographic indicator based on the number of infant deaths in the first year of life, the most critical period in the survival of a human being, and they are used internationally as a measure of how well a society looks after its children, their health and well-being.
The province with the lowest infant mortality rate is Sancti Spíritus, at 2.8 per 1,000, and another four provinces have achieved rates below the national rate of 4.6 per 1,000. These are Artemisa, 3.8; Holguín and Cienfuegos at 3.9, and Granma, 4.1.
Furthermore, these rates (the lowest is 2.8 and the highest 6.1) highlight the strength and equity of the Cuban social system which – after Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern provinces at the end of October – ensured, literally in defiance of the elements, uninterrupted services and medical attention for pregnant women, mothers and children, under the guidance of the Civil Defense system.
According to preliminary figures released recently by the Ministry of Public Health Statistics Office, there were 125,661 births in 2012, 7,406 fewer than in 2011.
The primary cause of infant death relates to the perinatal period, particularly in premature babies born before 34 weeks.
Specialists have reported to Granma that in 2012 low birth weight rates remained stable at less than 6%, which they say is "positive". For every 100 babies born only six weigh less than 2,500 grams (5.5lbs). However, 3.8% of these are premature births.
Other causes of infant mortality are congenital defects and other genetic irregularities, as well as infections, mainly influenza and pneumonia.
Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates due to congenital defects in the world. In these cases, the most developed countries reveal a mortality rate of around 40%, while in Cuba it is just 25.6% of the total.
The Public Health authorities that run the Mother-Baby Care Program believe that there are areas still to be explored to improve these health indicators.
As a result, they are urging all women of childbearing age to make use of Family Planning services, starting with the family doctor, in order to familiarize themselves with temporary birth control options, aimed at reducing unwanted pregnancies. They are also encouraged to use services reducing pre-conception risks which can cause premature births, such as anemia, undernourishment, high blood pressure, urinary and uterine tract infections.
Temporary birth control measures should be offered until other pre-conception risks, which may be life-threatening during pregnancy, during birth or afterwards, are corrected. These risks include cardiovascular disorders, hypothyroidism, asthma, diabetes, and thrombosis, barely acknowledged as a risk by most people. In pregnant women these risks are usually accompanied by varicose veins, common in many women over 30 years of age.
It should be borne in mind that the ideal age for giving birth is generally considered between 20 and 29 years of age.
It is naturally incumbent on the family to identify and minimize risks at home which can cause accidents and other unintentional difficulties.
More encouraging news from 2012 relating to the health of mothers and children was that the lowest mortality rate ever, 21.5 per 100,000 live births, was recorded amongst mothers in childbirth. This represents 15 fewer than in 2011.