March 1, 2013

Dried old magenta tulip.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Age has a beauty unto its own…

Dried yellow rose past its prime.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

…one just needs to live long enough to experience it.

You see, with age can come a dignity, a grace, a wisdom that simply is not present in youth.  These characteristics also transcend physical beauty.  However, flowers are one thing-people are another.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy for someone in the United States (as per 2010 data) is 78.7 years.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pegs the number at 78.49 years, which makes the US 51st out of 222 countries tracked.  (Monaco at 89.68 years ranks 1st and Chad at 48.69 years places at 222nd.)  It is a worthwhile sociological exercise to investigate the social-political-environmental conditions of each of these three countries so as to understand the gulf that exists between the first and last countries on this list.  The 11-year gap between the United States and Monaco is also worth a look.

One can also go to the other end of the developmental time line and examine infant mortality rates-this is the number of deaths prior to age one per 1,000 live births in a given year.  For example, the CIA states that the infant mortality rate for the US was 6.00 infants per 1,000 live births in 2012.   That number places the United States in the 173rd slot out of 223 countries.  (The CDC reports a similar number for the United States based on 201o statistics-614.7 infants per 100,000 live births.)  According to the CIA, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate at 121.63/1,000 live births and Monaco is the lowest at 1.80/1,000 live births.  As before, it is important to look beyond the numbers so as to understand the conditions related to such numbers. It also worth noting that various countries have different formulas for calculating infant mortality, so that can be problematic from a statistical standpoint.  Nonetheless, the infant mortality numbers do provide insight into the overall health of a country as this number tracks what is arguably the most vulnerable citizens of a given country.

A quick glance at the numbers tells the obvious:  far, far more infants die in Afghanistan than in the United States.  However, that superficial assessment is grossly unfair as the United States is the prototypical most-developed nation while Afghanistan is a prototypical least-developed nation.  To make it a legitimate comparison, one must examine the infant-mortality rate in the United States in relation to other most-developed nations, and when doing so, the United States, at 6.0, actually has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.  For example,  Canada is 4.85, Germany is 3.51, and Japan is 2.21 as per the CIA numbers. Again, it is important to examine the social-political-environmental conditions that contribute to this number (here is a report from the CDC based on 2008 data-pages 9 & 10 and 23-25 discuss these issues).

On the other hand, UNICEF has reported that the number of deaths of children below age 5 has declined over the past 20 years.  While there is still a long way to go and many problems to be addressed, both locally and abroad, it is important to recognize that it takes time to acquire that dignity, grace, and wisdom and many are gone before such an opportunity exists.

Take care.


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