Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blog 1: Failing Reproductive Healthcare Systems in Laos

Laos is a small, mountainous country located in Southeast Asia. Nearly 67% of it's population resides in remote areas of the land in village communities. Unfortunately, the distance of the villages from health care facilities is a significant factor of the failing efforts to decrease infant mortality rates throughout the nation. Newborns and mothers have the highest death rates in in Southeast Asia. In attempt to reverse this trend,  free maternal and child health care services were implemented in 2011 but, only minimal success has come from the programs due to economic issues such as: limited access to health care facilities, cost of services, cultural preferences, and lack of reproductive health services for youth.

The rural roads in Laos and limited means to transportation play an important role in why these free health care systems are not successful. The journey from a village to the nearest city could take hours or even days to complete, which makes it difficult for mothers and families to seek care during pregnancy and birth. According to IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, only 38% of women give birth with the assistance of a "skilled birth attendant". Lack of finances for extra services such as midwives and painkillers also create a problem in the system. With meager means to make ends meet, most farmers will barter livestock or crops in exchange for services. Most families will end up using traditional medicines and methods such as herbs, massage, and acupuncture (IRIN) to help with pregnancy and labor. These are cultural preferences of the mothers and families because birth is seen as a natural process. Yet, teenagers in this culture are naive about sexual intercourse and the consequences of it such as pregnancy and STI's. Modesty about the subject in many Asian cultures prevent teens and young adults from getting information and medical attention. Consequently, the adolescent fertility rate in Laos for young women ages 15-19 is 11% of women giving birth annually (IRIN). These women potentially face fatal complications during birth such as edampsia and post-partum hemorrhage. 

These factors without a doubt limit mothers from receiving the care they need for prenatal care and child care. With more funds and community effort, this health care system can succeed in decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates in Laos. 

Aleah Chavis

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