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What is a Health Disparity?

A health disparity is defined as differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among certain population groups.

African American/Black babies are two to three times more likely as white babies to be born low birth weight and to die within the first year of life.

African American/Black babies are two to three times more likely as white babies to be born low birth weight (LBW; < 2,500 grams or 5 lbs, 5 ounces) and to die within the first year of life.  The higher risk of fetal and perinatal mortality for African American/Black women is partially related to higher risk of preterm delivery but much remains unexplained and not well understood.  Some factors frequently cited in the medical literature as contributing to the black/white fetal and perinatal mortality gap include: 

  • Racial differences in maternal preconception health
  • Infection during pregnancy

  • Income

  • Access to quality health care

  • Stress

  • Racism

  • Cultural factors

 

The results of a needs assessment conducted in 2000 by Tri-County Health Department prompted further investigation into this problem.  In 2001, Tri-County Health Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment collaborated to conduct a special project in Aurora using the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).

PRAMS is a survey of new mothers designed to identify and monitor selected maternal behaviors and experiences that occur before, during, and after pregnancy.  This special PRAMS project over sampled all births in the City of Aurora and births specifically to African American/Black women in order to get better data for that population.  Several findings emerged from the data, but of particular interest was the association between race/ethnicity and poor birth outcomes.

African American/Black women in Aurora were more likely to have a Low Birth Weight (LBW) baby and a baby born prematurely (< 37 weeks gestation). 

African American/Black women in Aurora were also more likely than non-Hispanic white women to experience:

  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Health problems during pregnancy, including a statistically significant difference in the incidence of preterm labor
  • Stressful events during one of the twelve months prior to pregnancy, including statistically significant differences in the following events: 
    • Arguments with partner
    • Unpaid bills
    • Woman losing job
    • Divorce
    • Woman or partner being jailed
  • Not having their infant seen by a doctor, nurse, or health care provider during the first week of life after leaving the hospital
  • Lower rates of breastfeeding 

 
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