Venezuela: Rapid Rise in Infant Mortality Linked to Health Care System Collapse

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"By @plumavioleta "Atardecer en #caracas... #avebolivar # ccs #venezuela." via @PhotoRepost_app" by Pedro Fanega is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0Ms Jenny García, PhD candidate
Institut National d’Études Démographiques INED
Institut de Démographie de l’université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne IDUP
Paris, France

Prof Gerardo Correa, MSc
Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales IIES
Universidad Católica Andrés Bello UCAB
Caracas, Venezuela

Prof Brenda Rousset, PhD
Departamento de Estadística, Escuela de Sociología (FaCES)
Universidad Central de Venezuela UCV
Caracas, Venezuela

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Venezuela, as many countries in Latin America, showed substantial improvements in infant mortality rates during the last 60 years. However, the decreasing pattern might be reversing. Recent socioeconomic and political events have led to a collapse in living standards, along with a breakdown of the health system. At the same time, a strict secrecy policy has ruled public institutions, and since 2013 the Venezuelan government stopped publishing mortality statistics.

This study attempts to fill this gap and estimate infant mortality using hospital and census data after 2013.

The main finding is that infant mortality rates in Venezuela may have stopped decreasing and started increasing in 2009 – around the time funding for the Venezuelan health system started to be substantially reduced. By 2016, the infant mortality rate was 21.1 deaths per 1000 live births, which is 1.4 times the rate in 2008 (15.0 deaths per 1000 live births), and equivalent to the rate recorded in the late 1990s, meaning 18 years of progress may have been lost.  Continue reading

Full-Term Infant Deaths in US Remain High, Many From Suffocation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Cambridge, MA 02138

Dr. Bairoliya

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D.
Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Cambridge, MA 02138

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: While the high prevalence of preterm births and its impact on infant mortality in the US have been widely acknowledged, recent data suggest that even full-term births in the US face substantially higher mortality risks compared to European countries with low infant mortality rates.

In this paper, we use the most recent birth records in the US to more closely analyze the primary causes underlying mortality rates among full-term births. We show that infants born full-term in the US face 50%-200% higher risks of infant mortality compared to leading European countries.

The two main drivers of these high relative risks are increased risk of mortality due to congenital malformations, which patients cannot really do much about other than ensuring adequate screening during pregnancy, and high risk of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, which should largely be preventable through appropriate sleeping arrangements. While we do not have data on actual sleeping arrangements from our study, other data sources suggest that a substantial number of babies continue to sleep on their tummy; we also found a shockingly large number of babies dying from suffocation, which suggests that parents either use covers that are not safe, or let children sleep in their own beds.

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Cheap Cigarettes in Europe Associated With Increased Infant Mortality

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Filippos Filippidis MD MPH PhD Lecturer in Public Health School of Public Health Imperial College London London

Dr. Filippidis

Filippos Filippidis MD MPH PhD
Lecturer in Public Health
School of Public Health
Imperial College London
London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Smoking kills millions of people every year. It is well established that increasing tobacco prices is the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption and hence mitigate the devastating effects of tobacco on health. Taxation on tobacco products is high in the European Union, which makes cigarettes less affordable. However, transnational tobacco companies are known to manipulate prices, ensuring that cheap or ‘budget’ cigarettes are still available. This is particularly important for younger smokers and those of low socioeconomic status who are more sensitive in price increases.

Smoking during pregnancy, as well as exposure of pregnant women and babies to cigarette smoke increase infant mortality. There is also evidence that increasing tobacco prices is associated with lower infant mortality. However, researchers typically use average or premium cigarette prices. We analysed 54 million births from 23 European Union countries to see if the differential between average priced and budget cigarettes (i.e. the availability of cigarettes much cheaper than average priced ones) is associated with infant mortality.

We found that increasing average cigarette prices by 1 Euro per pack was associated with 0.23 fewer deaths per 1,000 live births in the same year and an additional 0.16 fewer deaths per 1,000 live births in the following year. A 10% increase in the price differential between budget and average priced cigarettes was associated with 0.07 more deaths per 1,000 live births the following year. This means that 3,195 infant deaths could potentially have been avoided in these 23 countries if there was no price difference between cigarette products over the 10-year study period.

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Maternal Cancer During Pregnancy Linked To Stillbirths and Infant Mortality

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Donghao Lu. PhD student Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Karolinska Institute

Dr. Donghao Lu

Donghao Lu PhD student
Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Karolinska Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Cancer during pregnancy is a rare event. Whether prenatal exposure to a maternal malignancy and its treatment during pregnancy impair fetal development and neonatal health is, however, of great clinical concern. The risks of fatal outcomes such as stillbirth and infant mortality, however, have rarely been successfully explored in pregnancies complicated with cancer, in either clinical or population-based studies.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Maternal cancer diagnosed during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of stillbirth (Incidence Rate Ratio, IRR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.2 to 5.0), mainly stillbirths assessed as small for gestational age (SGA), and with increased risk of preterm SGA births (relative risk 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1 to 4.4). Maternal cancer diagnosed during pregnancy or the year after pregnancy were associated with increased risks of both neonatal mortality (deaths within 0 to 27 days; IRR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.3 to 5.6 and IRR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.2, respectively) and preterm birth (IRR, 5.8; 95% CI, 5.3 to 6.5 and IRR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.4 to 1.8, respectively). The positive association with preterm birth was due to iatrogenic instead of spontaneous preterm birth. Preterm birth explained 89% of the association of maternal cancer during pregnancy with neonatal mortality.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Maternal cancer diagnosed during pregnancy was associated with increased risks of stillbirths assessed as SGA and preterm SGA live birth, suggesting that cancer and its treatment during pregnancy may impair fetal growth. Maternal cancer diagnosed during or shortly after pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of neonatal mortality, largely attributable to iatrogenic preterm birth. Although stillbirth and neonatal death are rare outcomes, the absolute risks of SGA and preterm birth are not small in pregnancies complicated with cancer. Careful monitoring of fetal growth and cautious decision making on the choices as well as the timing of preterm delivery should therefore be reinforced in these pregnancies.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Sweden is among the high-income countries with the lowest stillbirth and infant mortality rates, and these rates have decreased over time in many populations. Future studies in other populations are warranted to confirm our findings. Our data have also highlighted several cancer types, such as blood cancer, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer, which entail highly increased risk of SGA or preterm birth and might be worthy of further exploration. 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Maternal Cancer During Pregnancy and Risks of Stillbirth and Infant Mortality

Donghao Lu, Jonas F. Ludvigsson, Karin E. Smedby, Katja Fall, Unnur Valdimarsdóttir, Sven Cnattingius, and Fang Fang

Journal of Clinical Oncology
DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2016.69.9439 Journal of Clinical Oncology – published online before print March 6, 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Micronutrient Supplementation In Impoverished Area Reduced Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes

Keith P. West, Jr., Dr.P.H., R.D. Professor and Director Program and Center in Human Nutrition Department of International Health Bloomberg School of Public Health Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland 21205MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Keith P. West, Jr., Dr.P.H., R.D.
Professor and Director
Program and Center in Human Nutrition
Department of International Health
Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland 21205

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. West: Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) that must be provided by the diet, are a major public health concern in undernourished societies.  In rural South Asia, where some 35 million babies are born each year, maternal micronutrient deficiencies are common and may increase risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth, low birth weight or stillbirth and infant mortality.  Further, a newborn of low birth weight faces higher risks of poor postnatal growth, infection and mortality.  Where prenatal care exists, iron-folic acid supplements are often prescribed as standard care to prevent iron deficiency anemia.  But it is likely that many micronutrient deficiencies emerge from an inadequate diet, raising the possibility that a supplement that provides each day a recommended dietary allowance of most essential vitamins and minerals  could measurably improve the health of the mother, fetus and infant.  Because prenatal multinutrient supplements are rarely taken in low income countries, it is important to assess their potential to  improve health before recommending this practice.  We did this be conducting a large prenatal supplementation trial in rural Bangladesh, randomizing  44,567 pregnant women in their 1st trimester to receive a supplement with 15 vitamins and minerals or only iron and folic acid, followed their pregnancies and survival of their 28,516 infants to 6 months of age.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. West:  The multiple micronutrient supplement had the effect of extending the length of gestation compared to the iron-folic acid supplement, by about 2 days on average.  This was enough to lower risk of preterm birth, below 37 weeks,  by 15%.  The extra time in the womb also allowed the fetus to grow a little larger, increasing birth weight (by 54 grams or about 2 ounces) as well as length and other measures of size, leading to a 12% reduction in low birth weight.  In addition, there was an 11% reduction in risk of stillbirth.  These are all indications of a healthier pregnancy.  Although we observed a 14% lower mortality from all causes in girls, there was not a similar effect in boys, leading to no overall effect.  We are continuing to investigate possible reasons for this difference.
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Maternal Obesity Linked To Increase Infant Mortality

Stefan Johansson, MD PhD consultant neonatologist Stockholm, SwedenMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Stefan Johansson, MD PhD
consultant neonatologist
Stockholm, Sweden

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Johansson: Maternal obesity (BMI ≥ 30) has previously been linked to increased infant mortality. However, research has not produced consistent results. For example, there are disagreements whether infants to overweight mothers (BMI 25-29) are at increased risk, and research on BMI-related specific causes of death is scarce.
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Nurse Visitation During Pregnancy and Infancy Reduced Maternal and Child Mortality

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David Olds, Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics and Director Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health University of Colorado Department of Pediatrics Aurora, Colorado   80045MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
David Olds, Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics and Director
Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health
University of Colorado Department of Pediatrics
Aurora, Colorado   80045


Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Olds: We’ve conducted a randomized controlled trial of a program of nurse home visiting for low-income women with no previous live firths during pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life, with randomization of participants beginning in 1990. In our most recent follow-up of mothers and children in Memphis, those who received nurse-visitation were less likely to have died over a 2-decade period following the child’s birth than those in the control group.  Death among mothers and children in these age ranges in the US is rare and extraordinarily important for what it tells us about the health of the population studied in this trial.

For children, the reduction in death was present for preventable causes, that is, sudden infant death syndrome, injuries, and homicide.  All of the child deaths for preventable causes were in the control group, for whom the rate was 1.6%.  None of the nurse-visited children died of preventable causes.

The reductions in maternal mortality were found for two nurse-visited groups combined for this report: one received prenatal and newborn visitation and a second received visitation during pregnancy and through child age two.  Overall, mothers assigned to the control group were nearly 3 times more likely to die than those assigned to the two nurse-visited conditions.  The relative reduction in maternal mortality was particularly pronounced for deaths linked to maternal behaviors — suicide, drug overdose, injuries, and homicide; for these external causes of death, 1.7% of the mothers in the control group had died, compared to 0.2% of those visited by nurses.

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