Cuba’s Prenatal Care: Key to Low Birth Weight Issues in Alabama

Cuba has a surprisingly low rate of low birth weight (LBW) cases. Researchers from the University of Alabama Dr. Yasmin Neggers and Dr. Kristi Crowe whose main interest is in the field of nutrition during pregnancy, traveled all the way to Havana, in Cuba, to study the reason behind this.

Cuba’s Prenatal Care

Background of LBW deliveries

They focused their attention on the relation between prenatal care and low birth weights in Cuba. Apparently, Cuba, third world country has the lowest rate of LBW cases – almost half of that in Alabama. Low birth weight is an issue among newborns, where the baby weighs less than 5.5 pounds at birth.

In Alabama, the rate of LBW was very high. The common factors for LBW were attributed to smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption. These factors were less in America than in Cuba. Even so, Cuban women delivered healthier babies than American women.  This led the researchers to explore more into the pregnancy care of the mother.

Study by researchers of Alabama in Cuba

When the researchers from the University of Alabama visited Cuba, they found that the Cuban government was sponsoring a comprehensive prenatal care program for the pregnant women in the country.

This is an important factor which is known to affect the health of a newborn and is one of the major factors responsible for neonatal mortality. According to this program,

  • The Cuban government provided free medical checkups to the pregnant women.
  • It provided this free medical aid at all the centers throughout the countries at very frequent intervals.
  • The pregnant women received regular screenings including free dispensing of supplements and medication in case of any abnormalities.

Dr. Neggers and Dr. Crowe observed that this was not the case in Alabama. The poor and rural counties of Alabama received infrequent prenatal care. Only half of them received the necessary care. Some of them visit the health care centers only at the time of delivery and never before that.

As a result, they have never had access to prenatal care at all. This made a big difference to the way the baby developed and hence due to inadequate care most births, almost half of them were low birth weight deliveries.

Outcomes of this study

The preliminary results of this important study in Cuba and Alabama have led the Health Department to order further studies in this respect and come out with recommendations and suggestions for improvement of prenatal health care facilities in the state. The University of Alabama is planning collaboration with University of Havana for further research on this subject.

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