Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Deeper Issues of Low Birth Weight

One of the more thought-provoking points raised by The Starting Gate is the link between low birth weight and race.  When examining the high occurrence of African-Americans giving birth to lower weight babies than other races, one may be led to believe that there is a genetic causation involved.  Conley et al, however, suggest that the societal factors associated with some African-Americans, such as lower income and socioeconomic status, are more to blame than genes.  Furthering this point, when social scientists examined the birth weights of infants born in West Africa, they charted a more normal trend of birth weights than African-American babies.  

With this staggering information, along with the harrowing details of potential health risks for low weight babies, the question of how we can fix this inevitably arises.  While Conley points out policy reforms, such as Medicaid, which can help treat and aid babies with low birth weight, perhaps a more significant reform is mandated in order to mend the issue at its root.  The deeper issue is that there is an inequality and wealth gap that is so substantial that it actually impacts a person’s biology.  Not only is the affected person living in poverty with low social status, but a monumental problem is also that his or her child will almost certainly be stuck in the same predicament and highly unlikely to advance.  If the child is born with health issues, accompanied with the risk for illness later, then a large portion of the family’s income will be allocated towards medical funds. With the perpetual shortage of money, it becomes almost impossible to transcend to a higher class.  Thus, the cycle of low birth rate will probably perpetuate amongst a lineage. How to fix inequality in society has always been a heavily debated topic with no definitive answer.  While it is easier said than done, more focus nevertheless should be placed on conceptualizing how to minimize the inequality gap, and thereby minimizing the trend of low birth weights. 

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