EXAMINING THE INFLUENCE OF PERCEIVED RACISM ON PRETERM BIRTH AMONGST A SAMPLE OF PREGNANT WOMEN IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Racism is a grave problem in the United States. The individual and community characteristics that protect against racism are of interest in health inequity prevention research. African American (AA) women are 80% more likely to have a preterm birth (PTB) than mothers of other racial groups. Previous research reveals that racism has an adverse effect on pregnancy outcomes, including PTB. The current study aims to determine the relationship between African American women’s reports of lifetime experiences of perceived racism and the adverse birth outcome of PTB. A secondary data analysis was used to examine the relationship between perceived racism and PTB, using data collected from the Baltimore Preterm Birth Study cohort (n=845). The analysis includes the examination of demographic characteristics of the sample population and perceived racism prevalence using frequencies and proportions where appropriate. Structured interviews were conducted with pregnant women and medical records abstracted for pregnancy outcome. An index of Overall Racism and its two subindices (Group and Personal Racism) were created using items from the Racism and Lifetime Experience Scale (RaLES)-Brief questionnaire. Consistent with the high-risk study population, the PTB rate was approximately 17%. Women had a mean age of 23.2 years (SD 5.7), and nearly half (49%) had ≤ 12 years of education. Perceived racism was not associated with PTB. Previous preterm birth was associated with increased risk of PTB (X 2(2, N=845) =21.3, p <0.01). Traditional explanations, focusing on single risk factors, have not adequately explained racial disparities in PTB. More recent explanations have focused on understanding the health implications across the life-course. Although this study examines perceived racism and its relationship with individual and interpersonal relationships, further research is needed to determine the correlation between perceived racism and PTB and racisms' adverse impact on health equity for AA women and mothers.