Health Care Reform
Today’s post comes as a result of a question posed to me by Mama on Bedrest Natalie. She is now on hospital bed rest and is submitting claims to her supplemental insurance and she wants to know if they will cover her care. In my experience, once your pregnancy enters the “high risk” category, you actually receive more insurance coverage and pay out benefits from supplemental policies. This is because you are now being treated for a “medical condition” in addition to the pregnancy, and the medical condition is typically a covered benefit. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but this is what happens when you have a “health care system” that is actually a system that pays you for getting sick! Learn more in today’s vlog!
I am an African American Mama who breastfed both her babies. Yet according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American Women lag far behind women of other ethnicities in breastfeeding. Why?
When I made the decision to breastfeed, both my mother and mother-in-law looked at me, noses squinched up, as if they had smelled something repugnant. Neither of them had breastfed their babies (3 a piece), and they could not fathom why I would want to do such a “primitive” thing. My mother-in-law even went so far as to say, “You’re gonna have saggy boobs”. That fell on deaf ears because I had my kids so much later in life my breasts had already begun to head south! I explained to them both the benefits of breastfeeding; fewer occurences of ear infections, reduction in the incidences of asthma and the mother baby bond. Both became supportive of my breastfeeding and I was able to breastfeed each of my children for just under a year.
The Nation’s Health recently looked at the disparities in breastfeeding and has been asking, “Why is it that African American Women breastfeed at much lower rates than other women and what can be done to improve their breastfeeding rates and success.”
The biggest factor is support. While nationally many hospitals have increased their support and are advocating for exclusive breastfeeding (motivated in large part to earn the designation “Baby Friendly”), and are making lactation consultants widely available and ceasing to distribute formula care packages provided by formula companies, public health experts note that the support of a woman’s intimate family and friends plays a far more significant role in whether or not a woman decides to breastfeed and whether or not she succeeds. A woman is highly influenced by those around her.The responses of my mother and mother-in-law could have completely sabotaged my breastfeeding efforts. Strong, influential women like a mother or mother-in-law can make or break breastfeeding efforts. A supportive partner is also crucial to breastfeeding success. Women who have the support of their partners are also more likely to breastfeed and to have breastfeeding success. In communities in which breastfeeding is the norm, women are more likely to initiate breastfeeding and to be more successful at breastfeeding. Community groups and organization where mamas can gather and gain support also have an important role in breastfeeding success.
Education is extremely important. Many people are unaware of the significant health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby. When I explained these important benefits (i.e. fewer ear infections, reduction in allergies and asthma, reduction in the incidence of reflux, bonding between mother and baby, and the financial savings) to my mother and mother-in-law, both quickly became supporters. Among teens, breasts are seen only as objects of sexual pleasure (as depicted in music videos and other media) and many young women report never having seen a woman breastfeed a baby and are unaware that the God given intentional use for breasts is to feed the young. We have to return to such basics.
We also have to consider the financial benefits and convenience of breastfeeding. Formula is not cheap and if a baby has any sort of allergy, specialty formulas are even more expensive than standard formulations. Additionally, with breastfeeding, there is no need to bring additional supplies in the diaper bag, no need to worry about temperature or if the formula is mixed in the right proportions to water. Breastmilk is always the proper temperature, the proper composition of water to nutrients and ready for immediate consumption! This is a huge consideration as we enter into Health Care Reform and the initiation of the Affordable Care Act. If we need to consider cost containment, Breastfeeding versus formula feeding must be targeted.
Finally, African American Women need to see other African American Women breastfeeding. While the CDC and other advocacy agencies have begun to show images of African American mothers nursing their infants, most informational material still shows white mamas and babies. Subconsciously, the message is “black mamas don’t breastfeed”. It may seem trivial, but we are visual creatures. When African American mamas are aware that other African American mamas breastfeed and can actually see other African American mamas breastfeed, they are more likely to breastfeed themselves.
While overall rates of breastfeeding among African American women has increased, these rates still lag far behind women of other races and ethnicities. With the known health advantages of breastfeeding for both mamas and babies, including the potential to lower infant illness and death in African American babies (who have the highest rates amongst infants of all ethnicities) Breastfeeding support and education must be made a priority for all mamas, but for African American mamas in particular.
When you have medical questions, where do you go for answers? Do you ask your OB? Do you ask a friend? Relatives? How do you handle those pressing medical questions that plague you late at night?
Nagging questions can be burdensome, and often times a simple answer can put your mind to rest. But who do you call when it’s 2 am and your mind is running amok with all sorts of scenarios and “what ifs”? Which websites should you view? How should you search? And how reputable is the information that you find?
Mamas, I’d like to introduce you to HealthTap. HealthTap is a health information website with over 40,000 physicians in 3000 cities in all 50 states and 128 specialties. You can post a question and several physicians will answer, or, you can search the archives for answers to similar questions. According to Forbes and The New York Times, this immediate access to health information is the wave of the future.
I had the opportunity to hear the founder and CEO, Ron Gutman, speak at Austin’s South by Southwest a couple of years ago when HealthTap was in its development phase. It’s really an interesting concept. For patients, there is an incredible amount of information available right at your fingertips, anytime, day or night. For physicians, there is a wide reaching platform from which to share expertise nationwide and with consumers otherwise out of reach. HealthTap has the potential to catapult a physician onto the worldwide stage; a physician shares his/her expertise, a syndication or publication sees them and boom-overnight fame, success, the potential to be the next “Dr. Oz. It truly is the interactive wave of the future.
However, there are limitations. While you can ask “personal” questions, most of the physicians cannot offer specific medical advice as they are unable to see you and learn the specific nuances of your situation. So much of the information you’ll receive is general in nature. But at 2 am to be able to calm feelings of anxiety, its a good thing! Also, the information provided is strictly medical in nature. I don’t believe that you are going to get a lot of holistic advice. These are board certified physicians and as is customary, the psycho-social aspects of medicine are left to the consumer.
On May 30, 2013, HealthTap rolled out its app, AppRx. AppRx is an app that recommends the most helpful health apps-per the physicians in the network. While this is a useful service if you are looking for very specific medical information, i.e. what are the best websites/apps for tracking blood sugars, it may not be the best place to look for information on best places to give birth. I don’t know that you are going to get a lot of pro home birth information or information on how to choose a doula. So the app and the website have their limitations. The app is available for both smartphones and tablets.
Like all new technology, there are good things and not so good things. I think that HealthTap is a useful website for people to use to learn more about their health and medical conditions. AppRx is a good tool to use to start a search for medical information. However, I also believe that there is more to health and healing than medical procedures and interventions, and while you will get great medical information, you won’t likely get the information you’ll actually need to really “live” with your condition day by day. I think that consumers should investigate HealthTap and the AppRx and use them as the information tools they are intended to be. Additionally, I think consumers need to be savvy and examine all aspects of their health care conditions and integrate necessary health and wellness practices along with medical treatment for a comprehensive approach to their situation.
On this week’s Wednesday Video, I’ll download and go through the AppRx.