"That relative black-white disparities in preterm birth in Canada mirrored those in the US was contrary to our hypothesis, which was based on the very different historical experiences of black populations in the two countries," writes Britt McKinnon. (Credit: iStockphoto)

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Black women in Canada more at risk for preterm birth

Black women in Canada give birth to premature babies at a substantially higher rate than white women. Researchers say the findings mirror relative disparities in the United States.

“That relative black-white disparities in preterm birth in Canada mirrored those in the US was contrary to our hypothesis, which was based on the very different historical experiences of black populations in the two countries and evidence that socioeconomic and racial disparity in health and health care access tend to be less extreme in Canada,” writes Britt McKinnon, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University.

The study, published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), included data on 91,045 live single births in Canada and more than 5 million live births in the US between May 2004 and May 2006. In Canada, 4.2 percent of all births were to women who self-identified as black compared with 20.5 percent in the US.

Overall preterm birth rates were lower in Canada (6 percent) than in the US (9 percent). Preterm birth rates among black women in Canada were 8.9 percent, compared with 5.9 percent among white women. US rates were higher, at 12.7 percent and 8 percent respectively.

Foreign-born black women in Canada had preterm birth rates similar to those of native-born black women, unlike in the US, where foreign-born black women had lower preterm birth rates.

“We found that relative differences in preterm and very preterm birth rates between the black and white women in Canada were similar in magnitude to the racial disparities observed in the US study cohort,” the researchers write.

“The absolute difference in preterm birth was narrower in Canada than in the US, which reflects the lower overall preterm birth rates in Canada among black and white women.”

Source: McGill University

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