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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Examines Association between Neighborhood Conditions and Birthweight

Prior studies have shown that neighborhood disadvantage and disorder are associated with birth outcomes. In a recent study, Ms. Lee Anne Flagg, graduate student trainee in the Nutrition Obesity Research Center and department of sociology, and Dr. Julie Locher, professor in the department of health care organization and policy and department of medicine, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, examined preconception diet and physical activity level, as well as body mass index, as mediators of the association between neighborhood conditions and birthweight.

[Photo: Ms. Lee Anne Flagg]

[Photo: Dr. Julie Locher]

Secondary data analyses were conducted using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a “nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades seven-12 in the United States during the 1994-95 school year.” The final analytic sample consisted of 523 adolescent and young adult mothers giving singleton live births between 1997 and 1998.

In contrast with previous research, the scientists found that neighborhood characteristics were unrelated to birthweight. Consistent with prior studies, Blacks on average had birthweights that were 163.25 grams lighter, compared with those study subjects who were White. In addition, compared with mothers who were married or living with a partner, mothers who did not have a partner at the time of birth on average had offspring that were 127.20 grams lighter. No evidence was found for the mediation hypotheses as there were no associations between neighborhood characteristics and preconception diet or physical activity or between these behavioral variables and birthweight.

To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study examining diet and physical activity as possible behavioral pathways between the neighborhood context and birthweight.

“Neighborhood Disadvantage, Preconception Health Behaviors and Infant Birthweight: A Preliminary Study” was published online in the April issue of the International Journal of Contemporary Sociology.

Journal article: