Purpose of Blog:

This blog will be documenting my research concerning female literacy and related health improvements. My original project was to collect information and statistics from various sources and databases and create a cum
ulative source documenting the positive effect of female literacy on women and children’s health in developing African countries. Having completed this research paper, I am now maintaining this blog as a place to share my further findings on the subject of female literacy and its effects on health, etc.

Some quick facts:
Female literacy has been shown to have a positive effect on health because “educated women are more likely to be employed and to earn more than less-educated women” (Daniell & Mortensen , 2007, p. 278), “an extra year of girls’ education can reduce infant mortality by 5-10 percent” and “educated mothers are about 50 percent more likely to immunize their children than uneducated m
others are” (Herz & Sperling, , 2004, p. 4).

Daniell, B., & Mortensen, P. (2007). Women and literacy. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
Herz, B., & Sperling G. (2004). What works in girls’ education? New York: Council on Foreign Relations Inc.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Health Situation in Sudan

I've evaluated a number of countries and their health/literacy situation. I found Sudan's report particularly jarring, and thought I ought to post it on here. For those of you that aren't aware, Sudan is in the midst of internal conflict-genocide in the area of Darfur. Of all the countries I can think of, Sudan is in the most desperate need of everyone's help.


Female Literacy and Health Status

Where South Africa rates a bit higher than the average Sub-Saharan country, Sudan rates significantly lower. Terrorized by internal conflict, Sudan’s rates are, however, not incredibly unusual. Several other countries currently suffer similar tragedies. And of course, Sudan’s schools are not safe from the terror of this in-fighting: “A UNICEF survey in Tawila documents a large number of rape cases, in one case targeting 41 school girls and teachers, and the gang rape of minors by up to 14 men” (Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2007). This kind of disgusting intrusion is, unfortunately, not uncommon. As a result of this and other difficult factors, school enrolment rates don’t run high. Primary enrolment, as a percentage of the total number of children of primary school age is 60, and male/female: 64/56, while secondary enrolment drops to 34/32 (UNFPA, 2006).

Resulting from this the terrible conflict, its horrifying conditions, and a universal lack of significant education, maternal health is suffering immensely. For every 1,000 live births in Sudan, 590 die (UNFPA, 2006). That’s 59% of Sudan’s mothers. Not only is this a tragedy for these young mothers, but undoubtedly their infant children and families are suffering as well. These tragic and unnecessary deaths occur as a result of lack of materials, trained midwives and doctors, necessary instruments and equipment, first aid items, outreach services, among many other lacking necessities (UN, 1999).

Unsurprisingly, HIV is completely rampant in war-torn Sudan. Ravaged by the “systematic rape of black women,” victims have been informed, “I want to dilute your blood” (Grice, 2007). Not only are locals being slaughtered, but a “second wave of genocide” is occurring as women are raped, develop HIV-AIDS, and then cannot “get the drugs to treat the disease.” (Grice). And even those who might be able to obtain treatment often choose not to, as “women and girls in Darfur are so reluctant to report rape that unless serious injuries are sustained they would rather not seek medical help” (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2008). Naturally, many women never learn of their HIV-infection until it is too late. And infection is becoming worse and worse, especially since Sudan is a country where female genital mutilation, or circumcision, still occurs regularly. This mutilation increases the probability of infection, because of either unsterilized tools during circumcision, or from “being exposed to tearing or injury during sexual intercourse, which leads to bleeding and increases the capacity of transmitting the virus” (United Nations Development Programme, 2005). As a result, 56% of total AIDS cases are women, and 2.6% of the total population is infected with AIDS (CIA, 2003). Of course, this statistic was given nearly 6 years ago, and has undoubtedly risen significantly as systematic rape has sky-rocketed. And certainly these women and children are not benefiting from their lack of education, which could perhaps have saved them from waiting for treatment until it is too late.

Children’s Health Status

Children are fairing slightly better than their mothers, but not by much. There are about 91 deaths per 1,000 live births in Sudan (CIA, 2007). The under-5 mortality rate is worse, with 113 deaths per 1,000 births for both male and female infants (UNFPA, 2006). Only 1% of these infants are breastfed exclusively at 6 months (LAH, 2003). This unnecessary misfortune likely results from either lack of education for these new mothers, or the fact that, as we learned above, many of the mothers are dead.

*UNICEF Benefit Concert*

Hey everyone! Just wanted to give a shout-out and let everyone know that this Saturday, December 6, there will be a benefit concert for UNICEF in the Wilkinson Center at BYU. Tickets cost $6.00, and ALL the proceeds will go to UNICEF! So even if you can't make because you've already planned a hot date, buy a ticket and support one of the most valuable non-profit children's organizations in the world. Tickets are for sale in the Wilk.

See ya there!

Literature Review

I've recently done a review of all literature pertaining to the effects of female literacy on women and children's health. Here I'm going to post a portion of my review!

Literature Review

First, it is important to understand the documented effect of female literacy on public health in general. As I initially considered this project, I was thrilled to discover that there have already been a number of studies documenting of the effects of female literacy on health. These studies were performed in various locations around the world, however I have narrowed my review to several studies relating to Africa specifically. I've highlighted some of the exciting data and conclusions, to make for easy reading:

Literature Review

Barrett and Browne (1996) discuss the methods in which women’s education affects domestic hygiene practices and the use of health care services in a traditional agricultural village of Gambia. This discussion stems from the their survey of village mothers with and without formal education, with at least one child under the age of 5. Their study was given during the village’s rainy season, which is known for causing high morbidity rates. The results demonstrate, most importantly, that the village women with higher education were better able to understand health education messages (Barrett & Browne, 1996).

I was very impressed with the conclusions of Paul Glewwe, a senior economist for The World Bank (1999). After working, studying, and researching in Morocco, he summarized the relevance of female education effects on health in Morocco in three basic benefits. These three effects include: “(1) Formal education directly teaches health knowledge to mothers; (2) Literacy and numeracy skills acquired in school assist future mothers in diagnosing and treating child health problems; and (3) Exposure to modern society from formal schooling makes women more receptive to modern medical treatments” (p. 1). These conclusions aid in demonstrating how female literacy can specifically affect the health of both the educated mother and her children.

Spratt (1992) also discusses the positive impact of female literacy in Morocco, and discusses the great need for more literacy programs and educational institutions. Documented benefits of female literacy include fewer children per mother, fewer children lost to disease, and a greater use of modern health care practices (Spratt).

Another study, by McAllister and Baskett (2006), concludes with even more significant findings. Researchers were distressed by the fact that “approximately 600,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 die each year” because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth—a figure that may be underestimated by as much as 25% (p. 984). They noted that countries who treated women as equals to men tended to have lower maternal mortality rates, while countries who allow women to be treated as second class citizens had very high maternal mortality rates. Education played a large role in the development of equity, and therefore they decided to further research the association between women’s education and health. Specifically, they performed polynomial regression analysis for 148 countries, and examined the impact of gender-related predictors, including “education, political activity, economic status, and health, and human development predictors [that] examined the relationship between women’s status, human development, and maternal mortality” (p. 983). After analyzing data from the 148 countries, researchers found that the combined enrolment ratio for females had a p-value of 0.004, which was a “significant and moderately powerful [predictor] of maternal mortality rates” (p. 985). Additionally, female education predictors explained about 50% of variance in data. They concluded, “Strategic investment to improve quality of life through female education will have the greatest impact on maternal mortality reduction” (p. 983, emphasis added). Of all the potential effects on maternal mortality, female education had the greatest association with and potential benefits toward maternal mortality rates.

Maternal Mortality Rates

Here's a great picture that really depicts the situation with maternal mortality rates around the world:

WHO Maternal Mortality Rates, 2005

You can see that there is a real problem in Sub-Saharan Africa: at least ten countries have over 1,000 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births!