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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Incarceration’s contribution to infant mortality (and related note to a local “no to war on drugs event”/ Mexican Caravan For Peace)

Yesterday I participated in a walk drawing attention to the failures in the US and Mexico’s failed drug policies.
The participants (about 100) were mainly folks from the Caravan For Peace Campaign which is winding its way from
Tijuana through the US and ending up in Washington DC.
[See related news stories, blog items, and photos below]***

It was heartbreaking to talk a bit with the Mexicans, many who held small signs with pictures of their murdered family members/friends. Most had just disappeared…all because of drug related violence.

I’ve always believed our (US) War on Drugs is failing miserably, our skyrocketing incarceration rate is not solving anything.
In fact, it is having terrible consequences, including adverse health effects including greater susceptibility to disease, stress, and increased risk for infant mortality.

To be honest, I am not sure what the answer is.
Prohibition isn’t working, but I am very unsure about legalization.
Perhaps a fresh new way to address this as a health issue and not a criminal issue.
When I walked and listened to these people, I know that somehow, some way, I just have to get involved.
These people, too, are my community.

From the 27 August 2012 blog post at Family Inequality

recent study in the journal Social Problems by sociologist Chistopher Wildemanshows that America’s practice of mass incarceration may be exacerbating both infant mortality in general and stubborn racial inequality in infant mortality in particular.

Drawing on recent literature by himself and others, Wildeman spells out the case for incarceration’s negative effect on family economies, including: lost earnings and financial contributions from fathers, the expensive burden of maintaining the relationship with an incarcerated parent, and the lost value of the incarcerated parent’s unpaid labor. All of those costs may take a toll on mothers’ health, which is the primary cause of infant mortality.

In addition, family members of incarcerated parents may contract infectious diseases, experience significant stress, and lose support networks — all taking an additional health toll.

Sure enough, his analysis of data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System confirms that children born into families in which a parent has been incarcerated are more likely to die in the first year of life. The association may not be causal, but it holds with a lot of important control variables.

Does this increase racial inequality? Probably, because parental incarceration is so concentrated among Black families, as Wildeman and Bruce Western reported previously (my graph of their numbers):

To make the connection to racial inequality explicit, Wildeman moves to compare states over time, on the suspicion that incarceration could increase infant mortality rates, and racial inequality in infant mortality rates. That could be because concentrated incarceration undermines community support and income, people with felony records often are disenfranchised (so the political system can ignore their needs), and the costs of incarceration crowd out more beneficial spending that could improve community health.

The results of a lot of fancy statistical models comparing states show that:

the imprisonment rate is positively and significantly associated with the total infant mortality rate, the black infant mortality rate, and the black-white gap in the infant mortality rate.

It’s an impressive article on an important subject, one that thankfully is attracting more attention from good scholars.

I previously reported on Wildeman’s work on how the drug war affect families, here.

***

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Annual Report on U.S. Kids’ Health a Mixed Bag http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/press_release.asp Infant mortality, preterm births and teen births have dropped across the United States as have violent crime and victimization among children. But more children are living in poverty and the fight against childhood obesity is not making much headway according to a new Federal report.

America's Children

 

From the ChildStats.gov press release

Federal report shows drops in infant mortality, preterm birth rates

Annual statistics compilation notes increases in poverty, drop in secure parental employment

The infant mortality rate, the preterm birth rate, and the adolescent birth rate all continued to decline, average mathematics scores increased for 4th and 8th grade students, the violent crime victimization rate among youth fell, as did the percentage of young children living in a home where someone smoked, according to the federal government’s annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation’s children and youth.

However, the percentage of children living in poverty increased, and the percentage of children with at least one parent employed full time, year-round decreased, the report said.

These and other findings are described in America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012.

[Report may be found here,  table of contents and PDF option in left column]

The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that produce and use data on issues related to children and families. The report uses the most recently available and reliable official federal statistics to describe the family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health of America’s children and youth…

..

New to this year’s report is a figure showing the percentage of children in race groups constituting less than 10 percent of the population (American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, or two or more races). This detailed figure is available only online athttp://childstats.gov. It supplements figure 1 in this year’s brief, which shows the percentage of children by race and Hispanic origin.

Also new is a revised figure showing the percentages of high school graduates who completed selected mathematics and science coursework (Figure 13).

Among the findings in this year’s report:

  • A drop in births to adolescents, from 20 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 (2009) to 17 per 1,000 (2010, preliminary data)
  • A drop in the proportion of infants born before 37 weeks’ gestation (preterm), from 12.2 percent (2009) to 12.0 percent (2010, preliminary data)
  • A drop in deaths before the first birthday, from 6.4 per 1,000 births (2009) to 6.1 per 1,000 births (2010, preliminary data)
  • A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with at least one parent employed year round full time, from 72 percent (2009) to 71 percent (2010)
  • A rise in the proportion of children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 21 percent (2009) to 22 percent (2010)
  • A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in households classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as food insecure, from 23 percent (2009) to 22 percent (2010)
  • An increase in vaccination coverage with one dose or more of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for adolescents ages 13–17, from 12 percent (2006) to 63 percent (2010)
  • A drop in the proportion of youth ages 12–17 who were victims of serious violent crimes, from 11 per 1,000 youth ages 12–17 (2009) to 7 per 1,000 (2010)
  • A drop in the percentage of children, birth to 6 years of age, living in a home where someone smoked regularly, from 8.4 percent (2005) to 6.1 percent (2010)
  • An increase of one point in the average mathematics scores for both 4th and 8th graders from 2009 to 2011
  • A drop in the percentage of youth ages 16–19 neither enrolled in high school or college nor working, from 9 percent (2010) to 8 percent (2011)
  • A rise in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in counties in which levels of one or more air pollutants were above allowable levels, from 59 percent (2009) to 67 percent (2010)
  • 20 Percent of U.S. Women Were Uninsured in 2010, Up From 15 Percent in 2000
    http://www.commonwealthfund.org/News/News-Releases/2012/Jul/Oceans-Apart.aspx
    Twenty percent of U.S. women (18.7 million) ages 19-64 were uninsured in 2010, up from 15 percent (12.8 million) in 2000, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report on women’s health care. The report estimates that once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will cover nearly all women, reducing the uninsured rate among women from 20 percent to 8 percent.

Keep in mind that uninsured pregnant women have less access to healthcare, this affects the health of children
in the womb, both short term and long term.

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Health Statistics | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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