"Hurricane Katrina gave the world a glimpse of the disparities in the South," says Jeffrey Goldhagen, M.D., M.P.H., the study's lead author and an associate professor of community pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine - Jacksonville. "Our research documents just how profoundly these disparities impact the health of children in the region."
The study, published recently in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to statistically relate region of residence to measures of child health, Goldhagen says.
"In fact, we now believe that where a child lives may be one of the most powerful predictors of child health outcomes and disparities," he says.
The poor health outcomes researchers documented included low birthweight, teen pregnancy, death and other problems such as mental illness, asthma, obesity, tooth decay and school performance.
The eight-member research team set out to determine whether living in the South has a negative effect on children's health and whether a scientific approach could identify which states in the South have poorer health outcomes for children. UF researchers also sought to look at what is it about living in the South that results in poor health outcomes.
To find out, researchers computed a Child Health Index that ranked each state in the nation according to five routine indicators of physical health in children - percentage of low-birthweight infants, infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate and teen birth rates. The scores revealed that eight of the 10 states with the poorest child health outcomes in the nation - that is, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Ca
Contact: Patricia Bates McGhee
University of Florida