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Black Health Matters: The Collateral Effects of Police Brutality on Pregnancy Health

Mon, August 12, 2:30 to 4:10pm, New York Hilton, Floor: Second Floor, Sutton Center


Health scholars have implicated racism stress as an important factor driving pregnancy health disparities which disfavor Black women. Focusing on micro-level racial discrimination, missing from studies of racism and maternal health is a consideration of how racism, as a macro-level structural force experienced both directly and indirectly, affects health. Conceptualizing highly publicized incidents of police violence as indicators of macro-level racism because they are the result of institutionalized practices in law enforcement, and because they function as contextual, regional-level stressors for the community members located in the geographic regions in which they occur, this study investigates the relationship between the death of Michael Brown in St. Louis County, Missouri and the pregnancy health of the surrounding community, as indicated by preterm birth and low birthweight. Difference-in-differences analyses of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data reveal in the 9 months following the death of Michael Brown, Black mothers in St. Louis County had a significantly higher rate of preterm birth and a marginally significantly higher rate of low birthweight compared to the control-comparison county during the same period of time and compared to the same 9 months one year prior. This study provides new insights into the relationship between racism and pregnancy health, underscoring the need to consider the “collateral effects” major race-related traumatic events can have on the health outcomes of communities.