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Caesarean Delivery Provides Cost-Effective Measure To Improve Health In Developing World, Study Shows

“A new study suggests that at least one surgical procedure, caesarean delivery, is a highly effective way of improving health at a reasonable cost in developing countries,” VOA News reports (Chimes, 4/27). “In 2011, pregnancy-related complications resulted in an estimated 273,500 maternal deaths globally, or close to 775 deaths per day,” according to the study, which notes, “Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries” (Alkire et al., 4/25). “One of the most common” causes of maternal deaths “is obstructed labor, where the fetus cannot move down the birth canal,” VOA writes. Harvard Medical School researcher Blake Alkire “notes that deaths from obstructed labor are virtually unknown in wealthier countries,” where women “almost always have the option of a caesarean birth,” according to the news service.

“To measure the real value of caesarean surgery, Alkire used data from the World Health Organization, starting with the estimated economic benefit from preventing death and injury,” the news service writes. “‘And then we essentially just compared that to the cost of caesarean deliveries, to arrive at a benefit-cost ratio of six to one,’ he said,” VOA writes, adding “If anything, the six-fold benefit may actually understate the value of caesarean … births, since Alkire’s calculations only include the value of saving the mother’s life, not the child’s.” Alkire said the problem of obstructed labor is “easily fixable. As long as the mother gets to a district hospital or a referral center that’s able to perform caesarean deliveries, this can be prevented,” according to VOA (4/27).