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

ass) in New Jersey, which greatly reduced auto emissions in the vicinity of toll plazas, showed significant reductions in low birth weight and prematurity among babies born in those areas. Likewise, levels of pollution have declined greatly overall since the introduction of the Clean Air Acts in the 1970s.

Poor women also are more likely to be abused by their partners, and their exposure to stress worsens physical and mental health. Such exposure affects infant health in negative ways as children suffer from physical diseases, trauma and even lower IQs due to stress in utero.

Thankfully, local, county-level policing policies have been effective in reducing intimate partner violence. Because of these reductions, fewer women have been medically treated for assault. While this policy targets women, Currie and Aizer writes, it has the added benefit of helping newborn health.

Family Planning

Another big area of concern is access to care and family planning. Poor women are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and pregnancies that are closer together, the researchers write. However, recent work shows how Medicaid expansions of coverage for family-planning services have helped lower birth rates and multiple pregnancies. While such policies haven't improved infant health, per say, they've benefited mothers while influencing children's longer-term outcomes.

Future Research

Overall, poor mothers benefit from programs and policies both before giving birth and after. But often women only become eligible for these programs after the baby is born, creating a potential time gap in services.

"Given the research on the importance of prenatal conditions, such policies are potentially missing a major window of opportunity," said Currie.

Early-education programs have especially been shown to improve long-term outcomes for low-income children. Intervening early before a child is three years old
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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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