Magazine article Science News

Black Infant Mortality Risks Studied

Magazine article Science News

Black Infant Mortality Risks Studied

Article excerpt

Black infant mortality risks studied

Despite some impressive technological advances in the care of underweight infants, black infants in the United States still are twice as likely as white infants to die during their first year. Two recent studies reported in the Sept. 17 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE have refined the search for the cause of this disparity by focusing on premature births and low-birthweight infants. Previous studies had found that infant mortality is related to premature birth or birthweight.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Community Health Plan of Boston interviewed 1,365 black women and 7,538 white women who had babies at Boston Hospital for Women between 1977 and 1980. Medical records were reviewed, as were known socioeconomic risk factors. The scientists found that, among the possible medical factors, only the hematocrit level "accounts for a substantial portion of the increased risk for premature births among blacks.' Hematocrit is the percentage of red cells in the blood. The authors point out that a low hematocrit may mean that the fetus is not receiving adequate oxygen, or that the mother may be suffering from a condition like poor nutrition.

Nonmedical risk factors examined included single marital status, receiving welfare support, age less than 20 years, and not having graduated from high school. …

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