I have always thought that one very important test of a truly civilized culture is how a society treats those who are less fortunate. An editorial in the Lancet (thanks to Nick Embleton for alerting me to it) takes up the same theme and uses the example of the preterm baby.
Kadaga R, da Silva JB, Featherstone L: Caring for preterm babies is a test of how we respond to our most vulnerable citizens. The Lancet 2013, 382(9905):1613-1614. The authors note that prematurity remains one of the commonest causes of childhood mortality, and despite certain advances, there is still an awful lot that could be done easily and cheaply to improve outcomes: reducing prematurity with contraception and family planning services, antenatal steroids in mothers about to deliver a premature baby, simple resuscitation training (Helping Babies Breathe) availability of antibiotics and training for health workers to recognize infections, kangaroo care and supporting the supply of breast milk.
This year, let us dare to dream of further improvements for those born too soon, and then work to make them happen. Our health systems can be judged by how we care for newborn babies, especially preterm babies who can die, or be saved, by an effective health system. Is saving newborn lives not an important measurement and fitting indicator of universal health coverage
And an indicator of how civilized we really are?