IMI Study Finds Large Disparities in Preterm Birth and Low Birthweight

IMI Study Finds Large Disparities in Preterm Birth and Low Birthweight

Low birthweight and preterm birth increase the risk of infant mortality and adverse health outcomes across the life course. Having information about rates of low birthweight and preterm birth are critical for policy efforts, community outreach, and resource allocation.

A new study published in the February issue of Health Affairs found substantial disparities in rates of low birthweight and preterm birth among disaggregated racial and ethnic subcategories (e.g., Chinese or Mexican) within broader, more commonly utilized categories (e.g., Asian or Hispanic). The study provides valuable information for policy makers, researchers, and public health advocates by highlighting the importance of using subcategory rates to describe the risk of adverse infant health outcomes for a given population.

IMI senior research fellow Dr. Clare Brown and IMI founding executive director Dr. Jennifer E. Moore used five years of Vital Statistics data and found large differences in rates of low birthweight and preterm birth between subcategories within broader categories, with rates varying nearly 2.3-fold among subgroups within their respective categories. For example, Filipino infants had twice the rate of preterm birth compared to Chinese infants (10.0% vs 5.0%).

Individuals of different racial or ethnic subgroups likely have different cultures and experiences related to structural and personalized racism. Policy efforts and programmatic outreach aimed at reducing low birthweight and preterm birth should be mindful of aggregation into broader categories and should consider using subcategory rates when ethnically appropriate and analytically feasible.

The February Health Affairs issue can be accessed here.

About the Institute for Medicaid Innovation 

The Institute for Medicaid Innovation (IMI) is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization that provides independent information and analysis to inform Medicaid policy and improve the health of the nation.