Closing the black-white gap in birth outcomes: a life course approach
In the United States, Black infants have significantly worse birth outcomes than White infants. Over the past decades, public health efforts to address these disparities have focused primarily on increasing access to prenatal care, however, this has not led to closing the gap in birth outcomes. We propose a 12-point plan to reduce Black-White disparities in birth outcomes using a life course approach. The first four points (increase access to interconception care, preconception care, quality prenatal care and healthcare throughout the life course) address the needs of African American women for quality healthcare across the lifespan. The next four points (strengthen father involvement, systems integration, reproductive social capital and community building) go beyond individual-level interventions to address enhancing family and community systems that may influence the health of pregnant women, families and communities. The last four points (close the education gap, reduce poverty, support working mothers and undo racism) move beyond the biomedical model to address the social and economic inequities that underlie much of health disparities. Closing the Black-White gap in birth outcomes requires a life course approach which addresses both early life disadvantages and cumulative allostatic load over the life course.