Laura Dern: The U.S. can learn a lot from European countries about paid parental leave
Article taken from Market Watch
As the U.S. House voted to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, a number of celebrities and activists gathered in New York to discuss health-care reform and paid leave. The fifth annual Moms +SocialGood summit in New York, presented by the United Nations Foundations and Johnson & Johnson, discussed the role of social media and philanthropy in improving the lives of mothers and children.
Laura Dern, an Academy Award-nominated actress who most recently co-starred in HBO’sTWX, -0.76% “Big Little Lies,” highlighted the urgency of providing parental leave in the U.S. and how becoming a mother mobilized her to advocate for children’s health. Dern, 50, said Jimmy Kimmel’s recent monologue speaking out on the need for increased access to health care after the birth of his newborn son. “We have a lot to learn from Scandinavian countries that allow both parents, not just mothers, to take off work after a child is born and give them the best start possible,” she said.
The U.S. is also one of the few industrialized countries in the world that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave and that, she said, needs to change. Of 186 countries surveyed by the World Policy Analysis Center, a nonprofit policy research center, 96% provide some paid leave. The U.S. is not one of them.
The issue is particularly timely as women’s rights activists have called on President Donald Trump to introduce at least paid parental leave. His daughter, Ivanka, who now serves as an official adviser in the White House, has reportedly pushed him to include six weeks of maternity leave. Critics say that six weeks isn’t enough to cover the needs of new parents. The current administration has yet to introduce any policies on paid leave.
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The unproven theory that vaccines cause autism has gained traction in recent years, even getting tacit support from President Trump, but actress Zoe Saldana begs to differ. The “Avatar” star said becoming a mother made her more passionate than ever about her advocacy for vaccines and childhood health. “The fear of one of my children being afflicted by a vaccine-preventable disease is daunting,” she said. “And knowing that so many families out there don’t have the ability to provide their children good health care keeps me up at night.”
Saldana, 38, who was raised in the Dominican Republic, said she feels particularly lucky to live in the U.S. where many diseases have been eradicated through vaccines. She said she fears diseases like polio or measles could make a comeback if people don’t vaccinate their children. (Scientists have debunked claims that vaccines cause autism and the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also said there is no link between the two.)
“Vaccination is a very controversial topic in our society, but education sheds light on it and helps us make better decisions not just for ourselves but for our children,” she said. The rise in anti-vaccine rhetoric has been linked to a measles outbreak in 17 states in 2015 and a recent measles outbreak in Minnesota that has infected 40 children and one adult.
Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s pick for Food & Drug Administration commissioner, shot down the idea that vaccines cause health issues. “There is no causal link between vaccination and autism,” he said at a Senate confirmation hearing in April. Gottlieb was a member of a small conservative medical organization that published theories about Hillary Clinton’s health and links between vaccines and autism.