The term ‘adverse pregnancy outcomes’ usually refers to low weight at birth, i.e. to newborns that weigh below 2500 grams. Among these low-weight infants, the worst-off group includes those weighing below 1500 grams, who were also delivered pre-term (i.e. before the 37th week of gestation). All these babies face higher neonatal and infant mortality, as well as worse health during childhood and adulthood. Conditions such as growth retardation, neurological problems, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, etc. have been linked to low weight at birth. Another adverse outcome is ‘heavy birth weight’ (i.e. weighing above 4500 grams), as it is linked to both complications during delivery and higher morbidity (for instance, diabetes and heart disease).
The Coalition Government’s agenda to reduce migration will be challenged next year when Bulgarians and Romanians will become the latest EU workers allowed to come to Britain. Bulgaria and Romania (E-2) officially joined as EU member states in 2007. But the two countries are still outside the Euro zone and the Schengen region that allows free movement of workers from one EU member state to another. European integration in the last twenty years has shown that it is easier to freely move capital, goods and services, rather than people. The so-called “fourth freedom” of the EU demands the free movement of workers and is deeply engrained in the community ethos. But reconciling EU principles with national agendas has been a juggling act for national governments. UK policy-makers will be watching and waiting with baited breath in six months’ time when restrictions on 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians in the UK labour market will be lifted on January 1, 2014.
Policy makers have long been concerned with fertility rates. In the 1960s, the focus was on reducing fertility rates around the world. Today, in many European countries, policy makers are more concerned that fertility may be too low. Understanding how people come to make fertility decisions is still an ongoing research topic. Some evolutionary anthropologists have described humans as “cooperative breeders” meaning that individuals other than parents help raise children. A couple may decide to have a child (or additional children) if family members are able and willing to provide the couple with help. A recent article by Mathews and Sear (2013a) found that British women who have relatives as close friends are more likely to progress to their first child. Continue reading
Do more older voters really lead to more pensioner power? Most rich democracies today are faced with significant population aging, as a combined result of longer life spans and lower fertility rates. Many now fear that elderly voters are becoming an immensely powerful political pressure group. After all, aging populations do not just entail more elderly people who are eligible to vote. These elderly electors also tend to actually go voting more often than younger voters. A number of ‘elderly power’ theorists therefore suggest that population aging pressurizes politicians into providing ever higher pensions and other pro-elderly policies – a claim that is often mistaken.
Cognitive function may be a better indicator of the impact of aging on an economy than age-distribution, with chronological age imposing less of a social and economic burden if the population is “functionally” younger. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Skirbekk, Loichinger, Weber, 2012), finds that one standardised indicator of cognitive ability – memory recall – is better in countries where education, nutrition, and health standards are generally higher. Aging populations are of concern to many countries as it is often assumed that ageing necessarily implies a greater cost to society in terms of aged care, age related disease, and reduced capacity to contribute to society.
One of the critical texts of modern public health, The Strategy of Preventive Medicine (Rose, 1992) outlines British epidemiologist and physician Geoffrey Rose’s insights on how prevention programmes should work to improve the health of populations. Rose postulated that risk for a specific condition (for example, as Rose points out, hypertension) follows a single distribution for each population. While most people at the ‘upper end’ of this risk distribution might eventually experience hypertension, most cases would occur in the people in the rest of the distribution with low to medium-high levels of risk. Following on, Rose suggests that the best way to address large-scale public health problems is to shift the entire risk distribution, rather than target only those people at highest risk. This points to an intervention approach that is not individual, but structural—that manipulates the environment and context.