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Does Racism Cause Premature Births?

Racism has plenty of effects on society, but it could also be directly impacting the health of unborn children. Two new studies from Emory University connected premature births of black children with the stress created in women’s bodies from dealing with racism. The studies also found that when children are developing, racism can effect their ability to learn and distort lives in a way that can reproduce disadvantages including equality and poverty.

The study followed 100 women during the last three months of their pregnancy. Approximately 16.8% of black children were born before full term (37 weeks) last year, compared to 11.7% for hispanic children and 10.5% for white children. But while previous studies have attempted to link premature birth to poverty and disadvantaged backgrounds, the Emory study indicated that even affluent black women were still prone to this issue.

“The research was at first just suggesting, but it’s well-established today, something about living in the United States, something beyond poverty or health insurance coverage and health care access is helping to shape pregnancy outcomes,” said Diane Rowley, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. “And that something is racism.”

Michael Kramer, an epidemiologist at Emory’s School of Public Health. also confirmed from data dating from 1998-2003 that children born prematurely were more likely to fail state academic assessment tests. His findings also showed that the earlier the birth, the more likely the child was to receive a failing mark.

“I think that our research may be shocking to a lot of people, but I hope not dispiriting,” said Elizabeth Corwin with Emory. “We have some clue what may be causing disproportionate rates of preterm births in some segments of the population, and we know that we can try to intervene early. The question is really whether that is something that we are prepared as a country to do.”

(Photo: Reuters)

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