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HEALTH

Why is Denmark going through a baby boom?

A boom year for births in Denmark has been partly attributed to lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denmark is experiencing an increasing in births which has been linked to the social safety net provided by the country during Covid lockdowns.
Denmark is experiencing an increasing in births which has been linked to the social safety net provided by the country during Covid lockdowns. File photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Last year was a busier one than usual at Danish maternity wards, with health authorities in Jutland and on Funen, as well as the Greater Copenhagen region, all registering a significant increase in births in 2021 compared to 2020.

The trend is apparent when viewed through the lens of the numbers of births at individual hospitals, broadcaster DR reports on Thursday.

At Kolding Hospital in southern Jutland, for example, 3,622 more babies were born in 2021 than in 2020, the broadcaster reports. That increase – 8.4 percent – represents almost a full extra month of births.

Figures from Statistics Denmark from the first nine months of 2021 show that it is likely to have the highest number of births since 2010, once data is complete.

A possible explanation for the increasing birth rate is the arrival of the generation born in the 1990s – also a period in which the birth rate was high in Denmark – at an age at which many want to start families.

“That’s the maths in it. There were more children 30 years ago, and they are the ones having children now,” Anne Uller, the senior midwife at Kolding Hospital, said to DR.

Meanwhile, experts at the University of Copenhagen have looked into a connection between increasing birth numbers and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denmark could be experiencing a small baby boom because of the social safety net offered by the country’s welfare system, according to researcher Ayo Wahlberg, a professor at the university’s anthropology department.

“(In Denmark) we can be confident in starting families in secure circumstances,” Wahlberg told DR.

Most countries will eventually record a stagnation or decline in births once the pandemic is behind us, Wahlberg also said.

He argued that better options for parental leave while studying would help encourage people to have children in their twenties in Denmark, and thereby keep birth rates up.

“That’s the biggest barrier here,” he told DR.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s ‘corona babies’ struggle to adapt to kindergartens

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HEALTH

How will Denmark’s health reform change country’s health services?

Junior doctors will spend more time in general practice during their training and 25 new local hospitals will be opened under a new health sector reform announced on Friday.

How will Denmark's health reform change country’s health services?

An agreement for the reform was presented by the government on Friday with the backing of a parliamentary majority.

The deal had been delayed with the Covid-19 crisis among the obstacles which drew out its completion.

It provides for 6.8 billion kroner of spending on the Danish health service over the next eight years, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told media on Friday.

“We have an agreement for a health reform that will support local health services. Many parties are with us. (The deal) could not have broader support,” he said.

Parties on both sides of Denmark’s political aisle are in agreement over the deal, with Martin Geertsen, health spokesperson with the opposition Liberal (Venstre) party, calling it “a good little deal”.

“Does this agreement solve all the challenges faced by the Danish health service going forward? No. Certainly not. It’s a good little deal. It’s a step in the right direction,” Geertsen said.

The health spokesperson with the left-wing party Red Green Alliance, Peder Hvelplund, likewise characterised the reform as a small but positive step that does not solve all of the problems within the health system currently.

In an earlier version of the deal, proposed by the governing Social Democrats, up to 20 local hospitals – around the size of extended, large health centres – were proposed. The location of the centres that will be opened or built under the reform is not clear at the current time.

The new, local centres could potentially be located in former hospital premises.

The government also proposed a form of compulsory service which junior doctors would have to complete as part of their training, involving working for an experience GP. This will be undertaken as part of doctors’ studies under the terms of the reform.

This means that young doctors will spend an extra six months working at GP surgeries and spend less time at hospitals.

Earlier health proposals by the government related to additional restrictions on tobacco and alcohol sales do not form part of the agreement announced on Friday.

Negotiations over those proposals will take place separately, Heunicke said.

“Next week we will open negotiations on the remaining elements relating to prevention (of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption). It was the right thing to do to split things up because we got this broadly-supported agreement,” he said.

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