TED TALK – Prenatal Care in Australia & Kenya

When we think of healthcare, most of us might think of a specific treatment we, or a close family member has recently gone through However, an important aspect of healthcare almost all of us have experienced, is prenatal care

Now let’s think about what your life might have looked like if you hadn’t had this opportunity Your mother couldn’t have reassured herself that your heart was developing properly through an ultrasound, or taken the appropriate measures to aid your development if it had not She might not have been advised on the right balanced diet or medication which prevented you from being born with a below average birth weight or from not being born at all Thankfully, all of us here were privileged enough to be exposed to the proper preventative care: Prenatal care But, is it fair that globally, 42% of unborn children do not get the same care as you were entitled to? That, lets say, a fetus in Australia is 10 times more likely to survive compared to an unborn baby in of equal innocence in Kenya Ultimately, prenatal care has one goal, promoting healthy pregnancy, so let’s look at why countries with similar aims lay so far apart in achieving them

The first aspect that might come to mind is the availability of resources and consequently, facilities to cater to the needs of patients in prenatal care Percentage wise, Australia spent nearly twice as much of its GDP on healthcare as Kenya did in 2014 So with one country allocating a smaller percentage of its already lower GDP, resources are bound to be less established In Australia, complex screening techniques and diagnostic tests such as MSS, Amniocentesis and CVS are commonly available These processes could diagnose chromosomal abnormalities, genetic disorders and fetal infection and therefore prepare and educate a mother for a future of curative and palliative care

Meanwhile, mothers in Kenya may only have access to very basic information on the development of their pregnancy Abnormalities may be detected through an ultrasound, by taking basic blood tests or measuring the blood pressure and weight of the mother, but the rudimentary nature of these tests will often leave the mother completely in the dark on exactly what this abnormality means for their child Australia and Kenya also harbor strongly contrasting cultures which are reflected in the way they practice healthcare Let’s look at sociocultural issues, and more specific to Kenya, the social stigma involved in prenatal care Kenya with the 4th largest joint HIV epidemic in the world, is a country harboring 1

6 million people with HIV in 2015 Now although changes have been introduced to aid those in need, for example the implementation of HIV Testing and Counselling as well as the distribution of retroviral medication, We are still faced with the unfortunate reality that many women would actually deny counseling and treatment due to their fear of social isolation Take this one Kenyan woman for example, named Mary Atieno, in an interview with PlusNews She said: Mary went on to say: She still doesn’t know her HIV Status So with a great fear in knowing your status, it is no wonder that only 58% of the Kenyan women attend the World Health Organization’s recommended 4 antenatal visits With Australia, this hardly the case with women being recommended to have an HIV Test during pregnancy and being properly informed of how HIV can be transmitted to their baby

Globally we see that female education is directly related to the health of this demographic within a population When it comes to prenatal care, clear contrasts emerge when observing how established the understanding of this aspect of healthcare is in both country's societies In recent years, Kenyan teenage pregnancy has steeply risen as the already insufficient sexual education systems struggle to keep up with relaxing social values In some regions 33% of 15-19 year olds are or have already been pregnant It is unfortunate to have to consider that many young women will encounter a premature sexual encounter before they encounter any form of education on the subject

You can imagine that the importance of prenatal care also (often) fails to make it to the syllabus, leaving many still dependent and helpless young women to fend for themselves in a situation where, for the sake of them and their child’s health, they could use all the help they can get During this presentation alone, 7 adolescents in developing countries will have died due to complications during pregnancy So with a world so focused on globalization, shouldn’t we feel responsible to help those that do not have the privileges that we were fortunate enough to be born with? For some this call to action has stimulated a response in the forms of organizations trying to provide relief through novel strategies; for example, The Kenya Integrated Mobile MNCH Information Platform which sends timely SMS and voice messages with important health reminders to pregnant women who register and provide their due date However, the ultimate and most influential solution that we may help provide to a population would be the necessary education and awareness to allow women to recognize and commit to the care they and their babies so rightfully deserve Thank you for listening!

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