Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Racial and ethnic disparities in health disproportionately affect minority Americans. One of the greatest challenges facing the US healthcare system is the persistence of disparities in infant and maternal health among the different racial and ethnic groups. Now a day a major concern which is affecting communities on overall pertaining to childbirth is preterm births in the United States of America. In fact, preterm births and low birth weight have negative consequences not only for the infants and their families but also on the society.

Actual delivery before 37 weeks of gestation is the primary concern and low birth weights have a major impact on the functional domains, such as cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, and hyperactivity disorder (Brooks-Gunn J. , McCarton C. M. , Casey P. H. , McCormick M. C. , Bauer C. R. , Bernbaum J. C. , Tonascia J. (1994). Babies who weigh 5. 5 pounds (2500grams) or less at birth are low babies with low birth weight. Babies weighing 3. 3 pounds (1500 grams) or less are Very low birth weight babies.

There is a significant medical and social cost for low birth weight infants and preterm births. Low birth weight is a major predictor of infant mortality. Ethnic and cultural group’s disparities related to low birth weight infant and preterm infant are significantly disproportionate, affecting minority Americans. Although infant morbidity cannot be directly linked with low birth weight but it is a frequently used as a marker for poor health at birth because it amounts for the leading risk factor for infant morbidity and for subsequent mortality among the surviving infants.

The extent of which ethnic and cultural disparities in low birth weight reflect socioeconomic inequalities, cigarette smoking during pregnancy, young maternal age and low educational achievements are also associated with low birth weights. The hospital costs for low birth weight infants during the first year of life in 2001 totaled $5. 8 billion, representing forty-seven percent of all infant hospitalizations costs and twenty seven percent of all pediatric hospital costs.

Even if the infant’s family has insurance, the co-pay amount is significantly large, if we include cost of travel, lodging, food, time off from work and loss of productivity; it is very expensive and unaffordable for the society and the families. Pre term births increase a child risk for health and developmental problems. Pre term births less than thirty seven weeks of gestation is associated with poor health and social/emotional functioning measured at preschool age, adolescence and young adulthood.

Less than 29 weeks of gestation age infants are at risk of increased impaired brain function due to brain injury and disruptions in early brain development. Moreover, these health disparities showed a very high impact on the minority population of the United States of America. Thus, it is a great challenge in the United States health care system on the persistence of disparities in infant, maternal health among all the racial and ethnic groups. In fact, these health disparities have not only ended with the black community, it had affected all the minorities among all the groups.

Perhaps, American, Indian, Alaska native infants are touching higher death rates when compared with white infants due to high SIDS rates. However, to explain about the racial disparities is a never ended question. This disparity in healthcare outcomes does not appear to be limited to the Black community only, but rather it seems to affect all minority groups. The exact cause of these persisting racial disparities remains unexplained. The differences in socioeconomic status, maternal risky behaviors, prenatal care, psychosocial stress, and perinatal infection account for more disparities.

Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin have higher IMRs than White infants because of higher LBW rates. One of the major challenges that mothers experience when they bring home their low birth weight infant is interpreting the infant’s behavior. The infants lack of response to stimulation provokes anxiety in mothers (Garel,Dardennes,&Blondel,2007). One major risk factor for preterm birth is maternal genital infection. Others include extremes of maternal age, maternal cigarette smoking and substance abuse, history of PTD and maternal medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

There are support services and CHC’s available in our area for minority group women, preterm infants and their families to address their needs. Anthony J. Lemelle, Wornie L. Reed, Sandra E. Taylor 2011; Handbook of African American Health: Social and Behavioral Interventions retrieved from http://books. google. com/books/ (Pg. 254-255) Brooks-Gunn J. , McCarton C. M. , Casey P. H. , McCormick M. C. , Bauer C. R. , Bernbaum J. C. , Tonascia J. (1994). Early intervention in low-birth-weight premature infants. Results through age 5 years from the Infant Health Development Program. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272(16), 1257–1262.