As a result of Sweden's efforts to eliminate poverty and to provide comprehensive health care, there are only small social class differences in infant mortality. The wider social differences in US infant mortality are a consequence of less consistent and thorough attempts at social equity and universal health care. US Black infant mortality continues to be twice that of Whites, and the excess may partially result from racism. Public health research should examine the role of racism in infant mortality and develop interventions to eliminate racism and its effects on the health of Black Americans.
Today, many of the 10 million childhood deaths each year are caused by diseases of poverty--diarrhea and pneumonia, for example, which were previously major causes of childhood death in many European countries. Specific analyses of the historical decline of child mortality may shed light on the potential equity impact of interventions to reduce child mortality. In our study of the impact of improved water and sanitation in Stockholm from 1878 to 1925, we examined the decline in overall and diarrhea mortality among children, both in general and by socioeconomic group. We report a decline in overall mortality and of diarrhea mortality and a leveling out of socioeconomic differences in child mortality due to diarrheal diseases, but not of overall mortality. The contribution of general and targeted policies is discussed.
Comment In: American Journal of Public Health. 2005 Feb;95(2):19515762014
Homelessness among Alaska Natives is a social problem that currently plagues Anchorage, probably owing especially to the
rapid social changes in rural Alaska following World War II. This study suggests that some Alaska Natives may be predisposed to homelessness after they have experienced relocation or social disruption during their high school years or problem drinking in their family of origin. A culture of poverty now appears to be reproducing itself in greater numbers than during the 1970s, when Alaska Native urban migrants were first studied. This subcultural context also appears to be reinforced by alcoholism and to a certain extent by ethnic discrimination, particularly in high school during adolescence and in the workplace during adulthood. Feeling discriminated against seems to foster anger, frustration,
and self-blame among homeless Alaska Natives, who often come to see themselves as outcasts within the urban centers far from their homeland.
OBJECTIVES: To describe changes in infant mortality rates, including birthweight-specific rates and rates by age at death and cause. METHODS: We analyzed US linked birth/infant-death data for 1989-1991 and 1998-2000 for American Indians/Alaska Native (AIAN) and White singleton infants at > or =20 weeks' gestation born to US residents. We calculated birthweight-specific infant mortality rates (deaths in each birthweight category per 1000 live births in that category), and overall and cause-specific infant mortality rates (deaths per 100000 live births) in infancy (0-364 days) and in the neonatal (0-27 days) and postneonatal (28-364 days) periods. RESULTS: Birthweight-specific infant mortality rates declined among AIAN and White infants across all birthweight categories, but AIAN infants generally had higher birthweight-specific infant mortality rates. Infant mortality rates declined for both groups, yet in 1998-2000, AIAN infants were still 1.7 times more likely to die than White infants. Most of the disparity was because of elevated post-neonatal mortality, especially from sudden infant death syndrome, accidents, and pneumonia and influenza. CONCLUSIONS: Although birthweight-specific infant mortality rates and infant mortality rates declined among both AIAN and White infants, disparities in infant mortality persist. Preventable causes of infant mortality identified in this analysis should be targeted to reduce excess deaths among AIAN communities.
OBJECTIVES: This study examined whether neighborhood socioeconomic environment helps to explain the proportion of community members with self-reported poor health status. METHODS: A random sample of 9240 persons aged 25 to 74 years were interviewed during 1988 and 1989. The socioeconomic environment of each respondent's neighborhood was measured with the Care Need Index (CNI) and the Townsend score. The data were analyzed with a multilevel model adjusted for the independent variables. The second-level variables were the 2 neighborhood scores. RESULTS: There was a clear gradient for poor health and education within every CNI interval so that with an increasing CNI (indicating more deprivation), the prevalence of poor health increased in all 3 education groups (P = .001). In the full model, decreasing educational level, obesity, length and frequency of smoking, physical inactivity, and increasing CNI were associated with poor health. Persons living in the most deprived neighborhoods had a prevalence ratio of 1.69 (95% confidence interval = 1.44, 1.98) for poor health compared with those living in the most affluent areas. CONCLUSIONS: Both neighborhood socioeconomic environment and individual educational status are associated with self-reported poor health.