Differences in infant health in South America are socially and economically driven

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Racial and ethnic disparities in infant health are common worldwide and of particular interest in countries that are highly ethnically admixed, like many South American countries.

We recently published a study that aimed to examine disparities in birth weight and gestational age by ethnic ancestry between 2000-2011 in 8 South American countries. Data from more than 60,000 singleton live births were used and regression models were estimated to evaluate differences in birth outcomes by ethnic ancestry, controlling for time trends.

Significant disparities in both low birth weight and preterm birth were observed in Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. In three other countries (Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia) disparities were noted in preterm birth only.

The most important finding of this study was that no racial/ethnic group consistently had the best or worst outcomes in all countries. This suggests that the observed disparities may be driven by social and economic mechanisms with noticeable variation between the included countries. The authors suggest that researchers and policymakers should acknowledge these disparities and develop research and policy programs to effectively target them.

 

* This paper was written by George L. Wehby, Juan A. Gili, Mariela Pawluk, Eduardo E. Castilla and Jorge S. López-Camelo

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