Number of low birth weight infants born in America rose between 1990 and 2000

The number of low birth weight infants born in America’s 100 largest cities and their suburbs rose between 1990 and 2000, placing more babies at greater risk for critical health problems, according to a new study in the latest Journal of Urban Health, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal published by The New York Academy of Medicine. Meanwhile, infant mortality steadily declined.

Suburban white women comprised the fastest growing risk group for low birth weight (LBW) babies, although black women continue to suffer double their rates for both LBW and infant mortality (IM).

In the suburbs, LBW deliveries increased nearly four times more than in cities on average during the decade, according to study authors from the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Researchers offered several explanations. More white suburban women may be waiting until after age 35 to have children and/or using infertility treatments, factors that are both associated with LBW. In addition, advancements in neonatal technology have improved the survival rate of preterm babies, who are at high risk for weighing less than five pounds, eight ounces at birth.

In the suburbs of New York City, 20.3 percent more LBW babies were born in 2000 than a decade earlier.

“Reducing the incidence of preterm and very preterm births is critical in order for the 100 largest cities and their suburbs to meet the Healthy People 2010 goals for both low birth weight and infant mortality,” said lead investigator Lisa M. Duchon, Ph.D.

Duchon and colleagues compared 1990 and 2000 rates for LBW and IM, to the wellness goals outlined in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Healthy People 2000 and 2010 reports. The 2000 and 2010 reports both call for no more than 5 percent of babies to be born at LBW. On average, neither the cities nor their suburbs met that goal. The 2000 report also called for no more than 7 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. The 100 largest cities largely failed to meet this goal either although they made improvements; most suburbs did achieve the goal. IM in large cities declined on average by nearly 25 percent over 10 years. The cities of New York/Yonkers experienced an impressive 44 percent reduction in IM. Neither the largest cities nor their suburbs on average have met the Healthy People 2010 goal of 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Other research findings of interest in the current Journal of Urban Healthare as follows.

Antiobiotics are widely available without a prescription in Hispanic neighborhoods in Manhattan, although they are supposed to be prescribed in the U.S. by a health care provider, according to researchers from the Columbia University School of Nursing. Misuse of antibiotics is linked to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

More than 30 percent of children with moderate-to-severe asthma symptoms have not been diagnosed by a physician, according to research led by the University of Michigan. Surveys of 3,067 parents of 5- to 11-year-olds found that more than half of those asthmatic children were not taking daily asthma medication. One-fourth had not taken any physician-prescribed asthma medication in the past year.

More than 80 percent of the pregnancies diagnosed at New York City-run clinics are unintended, according to a three-year study by scientists with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Those who were unmarried, black, and under 20 were most likely to experience an unintended pregnancy. Researchers examined records of 9,406 women who had positive pregnancy tests at the clinics between 1998 and 2001.

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