Monday, January 30, 2012

Angela's Response

The first few chapters of The Starting Gate discusses a lot of statistics and research dealing with health issues, in particular low birth weights. Conley states how black people are twice as likely to be born with a low birth weight than whites, and how low income parents are two to three times more likely to have a low birth weight baby (11). The studies that are cited look at social, biological, and/or genetic factors to try to explain these differences, and what causes low birth weights.  However, it seems that study after study cannot give an adequate explanation to the cause of low birth weights since they cannot control every possible factor.  For instance, Conley gives the example that black women above the age of 15 are at a higher risk to have a child of a low birth weight (40).  The reasoning behind this, according to Arline Geronimus, is that these women have been more affected from social inequality.  Because of the stresses resulting from inequality, these women are more likely to have a low birth weight child.  Geronimus gives a social explanation to this issue.  On the other hand, Conley says it may be due to other factors, such as exposure to toxins (40).   It remains unclear to what may cause low birth weights.  Conley tries to answer this problem of race and low birth weight by studying cousins with the same maternal grandparents (50).  The last bar in Figure 2.2 factors out the respondents' characteristics, socioeconomic variables and parental birth weight to see the effect race may have (55).  It seems to me that there are other significant factors that are not accounted for that can be causing the low birth weight.  From what I understand, the study does not examine factors such as diet, prenatal care, exercise, and environment.  The statistics stating the likelihood for certain races and social groups to have a low birth weight is alarming. Researchers, policy makers, and the general public should be concerned on how we should deal with these differences.  However, it seems to be very difficult to figure out solutions to the problem, when there does not seem to be a clear explanation to what is causing low birth weights in the first place. 

1 comment:

  1. While I believe it is definitely true that there is no clear cut explanation for low birth weights, as it is always a combination of factors (social, physical, etc), I do not think the researchers left out the factors such as diet, exercise, and environment. I think some of these can be designated as byproducts of the social factors as explained by Geronimus. If the socioeconomic status of a mother is not strong, then I feel that it can be assumed that the diet and exercise are not at the top of the list of concerns of a person in that position. However, I do think, as Angela stated, that the effects of the environment could have been explored more by the researchers. So much was discussed about the environment of the actual premature babies during childhood, but little was said about the environment of the mother during pregnancy. I think the logical next step is to explore how the social stresses that Geronimus explains affect women in these situations in greater detail - such as monitoring diet, exercise, etc. I feel that this sort of information could shed some light on some of the mysteries of low birth weight as pointed out by Angela. The correlation of low birth weight and future health issues is clearly present, but such a general idea should be fleshed out with more concrete data than what is presented by Conley et al.