Preterm birth rates for infants of African or mixed-race ancestry were nearly three to five percentage points higher than the rate for babies with European-only ancestry, the study found.
Previous research has indicated that differences in birth weight and preterm birth rates may be magnified as the child ages, and reflected in overall health, productivity, and earning power.
The researchers looked at a number of factors, such as education, occupation, and prenatal care visits, to explain the difference in low birth weight and the rate of preterm births by ethnic ancestry. They found that mothers of African ancestry have the equivalent of one less prenatal care visit than mothers of European ancestry. Previous studies have shown that more frequent visits to prenatal care professionals improve a baby's birth weight and lower the risk of problems at birth.
"Our model tells us that if mothers of African ancestry had the same number of prenatal visits as mothers of European ancestry, then that would reduce the disparities between these groups by more than 30 percent for low birth weight and 60 percent for preterm birth rates," Wehby says. "How you change that is a question that Brazilian policymakers, along with future studies, need to address."
Geography could well play a role. The study found that differences in geographic location by race explain more than 70 percent of the disparity in low birth weight and preterm birth rates among infants of African and mixed ancestries compared to those of European-only ancestry.
"This suggests there are geographic variations in health-care, social and economic resources that are important for maternal and infant health," Wehby says.
The researchers note that while their findings are statistically
|Contact: Richard Lewis|
University of Iowa