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What I Didn’t Learn In Medical School

literacy_and_health2.jpgEveryone connected with healthcare knows that one of the most vulnerable periods in life is the first five years. That’s when so very many children succumb to infectious disease, often predisposed by underlying malnutrition. Understandably, the emphasis of programs in international public health and international medicine is heavily on well child care, vaccination, and early treatment. But one of the most profoundly important element in child welfare is rarely addressed: maternal literacy. The connection is unmistakable. Take a look at the data plot above. Children whose mothers can read are far less likely to die before age 5 compared with those whose mothers cannot read. Now, advancing maternal literacy is NOT an intervention typically associated with healthcare. I suggest, however, that we change our approach from one that is ‘typical’ and instead embrace proven interventions – even though they may lie outside of our normal approach to improving health.

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