African-American women are twice as likely to have babies born underweight or premature than white women. Chicago-based doctors James Collins and Richard David want to understand the statistics. Their theory is that racial inequality in America causes the differences in birth weights.
The United States has a lower infant survival rate than other industrialized nations. Premature birth is the second leading cause of infant death. Babies that survive face lasting health problems.
People with higher socioeconomic status have better overall health. African-American women with college degrees have a higher infant mortality rate than white women who do not finish high school. Dr. Collins and Dr. David look to genetics but determine it must be a social cause.
Stress from racial discrimination appears to be the cause of lower birth weights. Chronic stress can damage the body's organs and systems. Stress can constrict blood flow affects fetal growth and can trigger early labor.
Doctors at the Center for Disease Control conduct studies on how racism affects health. Researchers are struggling to find ways to identify and measure racism.
Credits: When the Bough Breaks
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Infant mortality rates among African-Americans remain twice as high as among whites. African-American women with graduate degrees still face a greater risk of delivering pre-term, low birth weight babies than white women who didn't finish high school. In this medical detective story, researchers are zeroing in on the added burden of racism through the life course as a long-term risk factor.
Length: 31 minutes
Copyright date: ©2008
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