MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jennifer Buher Kane PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
University of California, Irvine 92697-510
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: It’s not uncommon for new parents to relocate in search of neighborhoods with better schools, safer streets and healthier, more kid-friendly activities. But our new study found that living in such neighborhoods before a baby is born protects against the risks of poor birth outcomes.
Published online this month in SSM – Population Health, the research shows that having highly educated, wealthy neighbors reduces an expectant mother’s risk of delivering a low-weight or preterm baby – health markers that can be associated with neurodevelopmental problems, language disorders, learning disabilities and poor health later in life.
Our study is the first to look at how both the level of affluence and disadvantage — two sociologically distinct attributes of neighborhoods — affect newborn health; past studies have only explored the impact of neighborhood disadvantage. Neighborhood disadvantage signals factors such as poverty, unemployment, or underemployment. On the other hand, neighborhood affluence is thought to signal the presence of locally-based community organizations that can meet the needs of all residents – health-related and otherwise – regardless of one’s own socioeconomic resources.
We found that neighborhood affluence was linked to fewer preterm or low-birth-weight babies across the board — for white, black, Asian and Hispanic mothers. In contrast, neighborhood disadvantage was not significantly associated with poor birth outcomes among white and Asian mothers, but was among black and Hispanic mothers.
One behavior detrimental to newborns’ health was discovered to cross all ZIP codes: Prenatal smoking – even among white women in more affluent neighborhoods – correlated directly to an increase in low-birth-weight babies.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Our study is the first to assess the contribution of neighborhood affluence to adverse birth outcomes. Neighborhood affluence seems to play a more central role in linking neighborhood social environment to adverse birth outcomes, relative to neighborhood disadvantage.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Now that we know affluence is a key part of the story, more resources should be invested in unpacking the mechanisms through which neighborhood affluence influences birth outcomes – an endeavor that will likely uncover concrete strategies to improve infant health.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Citation: Co-authors are Gandarvaka Miles and Jennifer Yourkavitch of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Katherine King of Duke University. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development supported the research (grant K99/R00 HD075860).
The study will appear in the December print edition of SSM – Population Health.
Neighborhood context and birth outcomes: Going beyond neighborhood disadvantage, incorporating affluence
Jennifer B.Kane GandarvakaMiles JenniferYourkavitch KatherineKing
SSM – Population Health
Volume 3, December 2017, Pages 699-712
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