What is “Quality of Life”? It refers to the general well-being of individuals and societies. It is often confused with “Standard of living”. While standard of living is reckoned in the context of income and wealth, quality of life is perceived in the context of social environment, physical and mental health, opportunities for decent health care, education, employment, opportunities for achievements in life, social and cultural interactions etc. Textbooks may give a variety of definitions for the term “Quality of Life”. For a common man, quality of life ultimately means carrying on his life without running behind routine and mundane things. Running behind routine things cause undue physical and mental pressure and waste of time and money. A society that treats every member of the community equally and fairly can be said to provide a good quality of life to its constituents.
Having observed the arrival of a newborn child in USA recently and how the system dealt with the various issues relating thereto, certain features were felt very striking and indicative of “Quality of Life”. This is no value judgment or reflection on any other system and only an attempt to place the facts as they unfolded.
- The first welcome for the new arrival was six months before the birth of the child. As soon as the employer came to know about the arrival of the child, the expectant mother was allotted a parking place closest to the main entrance of the building. There was no necessity for her to arrive early at the office complex for finding a parking place near the main entrance, to avoid long walks to the workplace from the parking lot. (This facility is provided by some of the employers).
- There was no need for an announcing the new arrival. Mere parking of the car in the dedicated slot was enough for the colleagues to understand and congratulate her profusely.
- The hospital gave the telephone number to be called as soon as the first signs of labor were felt. This call would keep the system at the hospital ready for further necessary actions, before the expectant mother arrived at the hospital.
- If the expectant mother is alone at home or there is no arrangement for taking her to the hospital, a call to the police or an emergency number would do. The nearest police patrol car would pick her up from the house and drop at the hospital.
- Hospitals offer birthing and parenting classes to prepare the parents to receive the baby and attend to its initial requirements.
- Each patient is provided a room or shared room, with all emergency medical facilities.
- At the time of arrival of the newborn, father of the child is allowed in the OT. He is provided with the necessary gear and would look like any other doctor on duty.
- Father of the child has the privilege of receiving the baby first, even before the mother! He is offered the pleasure of cutting the placenta and initiating the first act in the growth of the child.
- The child is not burdened with a long list of prescriptions of medicines and drugs. The only shots given are for immunizations as per the prescribed schedule.
- Most employers welcome the baby with some gifts or welcome card as soon as the birth is communicated to them.
- Saturdays are reserved for special attention to sick children at hospitals. This is to prevent mixing of normal kids with sick ones and to avoid infections.
- Dedicated telephone numbers are available at Hospitals for reaching incase urgent medical attention is required for the child.
- Feeding the child by the mother is encouraged. Supplements like formula milk are used only when necessary.
- Parents have to fill a simple form giving details of names and address of the parents and name given to the baby, and submit to the hospital authorities. Birth Certificate issued by the competent authority arrives in the mailbox within a week. No need of repeated trips to the registrar’s office and no other requirement of formalities or applications. No registered mail and no need to wait for the postman.
- In the next two or three days, Social Security Card of the newborn arrives in the mailbox.
- Parents can take the child to a local library or town hall and apply for a passport. The library works till late in the evening and an appointment can be obtained for as late as 8.30 PM. The formalities can be completed without applying for leave or going to agents to get an appointment at the passport office. In a week’s time passport arrives in the mailbox. Again, there is no need to wait for the postman or visit the post office if the receiver is not at home during his visit.
- Thus, within a month’s time the child has its basic documents like birth certificate, social security card and passport in place.
- Use of child seat in cars is compulsory and safety of the child is given utmost importance.
- A sign on the car window, “Baby on board”, is respected by all motorists and due deference is shown to the car carrying the baby.
- Each residential area is assigned to a school district. A child from the area goes to the designated school and there is no need for the parents to search for schools and pay hefty donations for a seat in the school.
- School buses have distinct yellow colors and traffic regulations provide special courtesy to such vehicles. Speed limits are strictly followed and enforced.
- Priority in boarding of aircrafts, trains and buses is given to parents carrying small children. This is not the courtesy of some kind-hearted human beings or at the discretion of the other passengers. It is provided in the systems and the procedures are strictly implemented. More importantly, nobody grumbles or interferes in their implementation.
- As the child grows, due importance is given for physical activities, sports and games. All schools are provided large play-fields and attached infrastructure.
- Parents are provided certain relief in their income tax assessments for taking care of the child. This is the government’s contribution for the welfare of the child.
To sum up, a newborn is a welcome addition to the society and not treated as a burden. The above measures and practices make a new arrival a matter of happiness and joy for the parents. Such joy is shared by the society as well. This is indicative of an important index of “Quality of Life”, from the very beginning of a new life.