Declining infant mortality and rising gross national product have signified social and economic success since the Industrial Revolution. But for the first time in 20 years California's infant-mortality rate is rising. Inadequate prenatal care is a major factor.
Despite this clear warning signal, a California Senate committee has suspended action on a measure (SB 1071) that would expand the existing perinatal (prenatal and early infant care) program. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), could provide prenatal care for an additional 10,000 women.
Although the measure would cost about $10 million per year, it is estimated that each $1 spent on prenatal care saves $2 in medical-care costs for infants with undiagnosed birth complications. Bergeson still plans to push the Legislature for improvements in prenatal care. She should have the full and urgent support of both the Legislature and the governor.
In 1985 more than 4,400 babies died within a year after birth, one-third of these in Los Angeles County. With proper prenatal care, health experts say, 50% of those deaths could have been prevented. But, increasingly, care is no longer available. The lack of early prenatal care has been directly linked to increased premature births, retardation and birth defects.