My wife and I spent the day in the Emergency Room yesterday with our daughter Sophie, who had become severely dehydrated due to gastroenteritis induced vomiting. The folks at the University of Chicago emergency room were very kind to us. I hope we never have to go there again, but if we do, it looks like the generosity of the founder of Lands’ End will make our next visit even better.
I don’t know whether, in another era, Sophie would have died from this or not. Probably not. But, I do know she was a largely unresponsive rag doll when we got her to the hospital, and 8 hours of IV fluids later, she was back essentially as good as new.
All this gave me a new appreciation for a research paper that I have always liked by Doug Almond, Ken Chay, and Michael Greenstone. They document that when racial discrimination in access to hospitals faded in the 1960’s, black babies (especially in the rural South) had huge improvements in survival rates, which the authors are able to tie to simple things like avoiding death due to dehydration. The infant mortality rate for blacks was 6 in 100 in the Mississippi Delta as late as 1965. Six years later, it had fallen in half.