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Int J Public Health. 2015 Mar;60(3):343-51. doi: 10.1007/s00038-014-0639-6. Epub 2014 Dec 27.

Disparities in birth weight and gestational age by ethnic ancestry in South American countries.

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Department of Health Management and Policy, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, 145N. Riverside Dr., 100 College of Public Health Bldg., Room N248, Iowa City, IA, 52242-2007, USA,



We examine disparities in birth weight and gestational age by ethnic ancestry in 2000-2011 in eight South American countries.


The sample included 60,480 singleton live births. Regression models were estimated to evaluate differences in birth outcomes by ethnic ancestry controlling for time trends.


Significant disparities were found in seven countries. In four countries-Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela-we found significant disparities in both low birth weight and preterm birth. Disparities in preterm birth alone were observed in Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia. Several differences in continuous birth weight, gestational age, and fetal growth rate were also observed. There were no systematic patterns of disparities between the evaluated ethnic ancestry groups across the study countries, in that no racial/ethnic group consistently had the best or worst outcomes in all countries.


Racial/ethnic disparities in infant health are common in several South American countries. Differences across countries suggest that racial/ethnic disparities are driven by social and economic mechanisms. Researchers and policymakers should acknowledge these disparities and develop research and policy programs to effectively target them.

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