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Despite economic blows, infant health has improved among US poor
Date:5/22/2014

Despite worsening economic conditions for those at the bottom, infant health has steadily improved among the most disadvantaged Americans, according to a review published in Science by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The researchers cite programs and policies like Medicaid, the Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Food Stamp program now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as the driving forces behind such marked improvements.

"We've long known that the health of infants is vulnerable, especially for those born to disadvantaged mothers," said co-author Janet Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and director of the Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing. "However, we now know better how to protect infants from these shocks. Our review shows how current policies have helped to counteract the effects of growing income inequality."

Past research suggests that health at birth is an important predictor of long-term outcomes related to education, employment and income. And for babies born to poor mothers, the risks are amplified. Disadvantaged mothers are more likely to have worse underlying health, poor nutrition, limited access to care and more exposure to harmful pollutants and other stressors. These four health obstacles significantly affect a baby's birth weight a strong determinant of infant health.

In an extensive review of health literature, Currie and co-author Anna Aizer, an associate professor of economics and public policy at Brown University, evaluated these aforementioned obstacles, showing how programs and policies have helped to interrupt the cycle.

Nutrition and Health

Disadvantaged mothers have poorer health than their advantaged peers. They are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol and use illicit drugs. They typically have worse und
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Contact: B. Rose Huber
brhuber@princeton.edu
609-258-0157
Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Source:Eurekalert  

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