Can Racism Lead to Health Complications for Your Child?

By Janell Ross, TheRoot.com

The big revelations coming out of Emory didn’t stop there. Preterm birth is long understood to have a potential impact on a child’s cognition and language-learning skills. But Michael Kramer, an epidemiologist at Emory’s School of Public Health, examined the birth and school records of thousands of Georgians born between 1998 and 2003. When these children took state academic assessment tests in first grade, those born prematurely were more likely to fail. premature-baby

The more premature the birth, the worse the child performed. Only 13 percent of the babies born on time or less than three weeks early fell short on first-grade tests, compared to a third of the children born 13 to 20 weeks prematurely.

“What we found explains some, but by no means all, of the academic achievement gap,” Kramer said. “There are real differences we can make in education by investing in what happens long before children reach school.”

Kramer’s findings also suggest that since poor minority families often concentrate in sections of a city and therefore send their children to the same set of the nation’s increasingly segregated (by both race and class) schools, children struggling to learn due to a preterm birth aren’t evenly disbursed. Some schools are likely serving large numbers while others, in wealthier communities and those serving mostly white students, may be serving few to none. (. . .)

images-10If poverty and racism are driving preterm birth and later health and learning complications, then reducing the first and eliminating the second become a public health imperative.

“I think that our research may be shocking to a lot of people, but I hope not dispiriting,” said 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.”

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