Monthly Archives: September 2021

What if . . .?

What if a country had a great public health system?

What if that country had a veritable army of public health nurses?

What if those public health nurses received two years of extra training in specialties such as maternity care and mental health?

What if maternity nurses made two years of regular, free, home visits to all pregnant and post-partum women?

What if those public health nurses were paid generous salaries to demonstrate their value to society?

Sound like a fantasy?

Enter Denmark.

Denmark

According to one website, the average annual salary earned by Danish nurses to perform the above-listed (and plenty of other) services is $199,731 USD.

And, according to another website, the EU nation with the highest Covid vaccination rate of children age 12 and up is currently — maybe you guessed it — also Denmark. They’ve also vaccinated way more adults. Altogether, as of Sept. 6th, 73% of Danes have been fully vaccinated, compared to 62% of Americans.

I don’t see that as a coincidence.

Denmark’s public health system is so comprehensive, so systematic, so thoughtful, and so FREE, that it’s hard to imagine them NOT having the highest vaccination rate of children age 12 and up. According to the Borgen Project, here are some of the laudable features of Denmark’s public health system:

All citizens in Denmark enjoy universal, equal and free healthcare services. Citizens have equal access to treatment, diagnosis and choice of hospital . . . . Healthcare services include primary and preventive care, specialist care, hospital care, mental health care, long-term care and children’s dental services.

Denmark Coverage Graphic

Denmark organizes child healthcare into primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems. The primary level is free for all Danish citizens.

Tax revenue funds healthcare in Denmark. The state government, regions and municipalities operate the healthcare system and each sector has its own role

The healthcare system runs more effectively than other developed countries, such as the U.S. and other European countries. For instance, experts attribute low mortality in Denmark to its healthcare success. . . . Denmark spends relatively less money on healthcare in comparison to the USA. In 2016, the U.S. spent 17.21% of its GDP on healthcare, while Denmark only spent 10.37%. By contrast, in 2015, the life expectancy at birth in Denmark was 80.8 years, yet it was 78.8 years in the U.S. 

The high-quality healthcare system increases life expectancy. Danish life expectancy [even] slightly exceeds the average of the E.U. 

Healthcare in Denmark sets a good example for elderly care in other countries.  . . Danish senior citizens have the right to enjoy home care services for free, including practical help and personal care, if they are unable to live independently. Similarly, preventive measures and home visits can help citizens above 80 years old to plan their lives and care.

Denmark Organization Graphic

The U.S. doesn’t have anything like any of the above systems. Instead, we value individual choice and effort over any notion of either community health or collective rights. That sounds good — until a pandemic reminds us of how lethal that value can prove.

Is it any wonder that Denmark is doing such a better job than the U.S. in vaccinating its teens against Covid?

Swan Lessons

This past month, the swans have taken up residence in our local cove, for the first time in the six summers we’ve lived here.

What could be a more beautiful way to celebrate the birth minute of my husband’s milestone birthday than a sunrise with swans?

What smiles the swans have brought to all who pass by. Plus, they’ve provided a great opportunity for conversations with admiring strangers. (“We just counted 81! How many did you count?”)

They’ve also motivated me to do some quick online research.

Turns out those oddly-shaped black blobs that sometimes rest on their backs are a leg. One leg. What’s going on with that? Does one webbed foot suddenly get tired and need a rest? Does resting a leg on a back stretch out taut muscles tired from too much paddling? Does a wet foot on some overheated feathers add a cooling touch under the hot sun? And how do they manage to navigate, anyway, without going awry from having only one limb for paddling? (Yes, I’ve seen them locomoting with a webbed foot lying on their rump.)

The anthropologist in me is frustrated no end that I can’t ask them for a direct response to these growing questions. I’ll have to keep testing out my theories using that other classic ethnographic method (which I honed while studying babies in West Africa): observing behavior and ruling out unlikely hypotheses. I wonder how likely this experiment in inter-species ethnography is to succeed.

Meanwhile, never mind their human fan club. Oblivious of us, and despite their reputation for nastiness, the swans that have taken up residence in our local harbor have co-existed happily all month with geese, ducks, egrets, seagulls, and terns.

Dare I hope the waterfowl offer a model for us bickering humans to re-gain a sense of community spirit?