Surveillance for disparities in maternal health-related behaviors—selected states, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2000-2001

Tanya M Phares, Brian Morrow, Amy Lansky, Wanda D Barfield, Cheryl B Prince, Kristen S Marchi, Paula A Braveman, Letitia M Williams, Brooke Kinniburgh
MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2004 July 2, 53 (4): 1-13

PROBLEM/CONDITION: Disparities in maternal and infant health have been observed among members of different racial and ethnic populations and persons of differing socioeconomic status. For the Healthy People 2010 objectives for maternal and child health to be achieved (US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health [2 vols.]. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2000), the nature and extent of disparities in maternal behaviors that affect maternal or infant health should be understood. Identifying these disparities can assist public health authorities in developing policies and programs targeting persons at greatest risk for adverse health outcomes.


DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM: The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) is an ongoing state- and population-based surveillance system designed to monitor selected maternal behaviors and experiences that occur before, during, and after pregnancy among women who deliver live-born infants. PRAMS employs a mixed mode data-collection methodology; up to three self-administered surveys are mailed to a sample of mothers, and nonresponders are followed up with telephone interviews. Self-reported survey data are linked to selected birth certificate data and weighted for sample design, nonresponse, and noncoverage to create annual PRAMS analysis data sets that can be used to produce statewide estimates of different perinatal health behaviors and experiences among women delivering live infants in 31 states and New York City. This report summarizes data for 2000-2001 from eight states (Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, and North Carolina) on four behaviors (smoking during pregnancy, alcohol use during pregnancy, breastfeeding initiation, and use of the infant back sleep position) for which substantial health disparities have been identified previously.

RESULTS: Although the prevalence of each behavior varied by state, consistent patterns were observed among the eight states by age, race, ethnicity, education, and income level. Overall, the prevalence of smoking during pregnancy ranged from 9.0% to 17.4%. Younger (aged <25 years) women, white women, American Indian women, non-Hispanic women (except in Hawaii), women with a high school education or less, and women with low incomes consistently reported the highest rates of smoking. Overall, the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy ranged from 3.4% to 9.9%. In seven states, women aged >35 years, non-Hispanic women, women with more than a high school education, and women with higher incomes reported the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy. Overall, the prevalence of breastfeeding initiation ranged from 54.8% to 89.6%. Younger women, black women, women with a high school education or less, and women with low incomes reported the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation. The size of the black-white disparity in breastfeeding varied among states. Overall, use of the back sleep position for infants ranged from 49.7% to 74.8%. Use of the back sleep position was lowest among younger women, black women, women with lower levels of education, and women with low incomes. Ethnic differences in sleep position varied substantially by state.

INTERPRETATION: PRAMS data can be used to identify racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in critical maternal health-related behaviors. Although similar general patterns by age, education, and income were observed in at least seven states, certain racial and ethnic disparities varied by state. Prevalence of the four behaviors among each population often varied by state, indicating the potential impact of state-specific policies and programs.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION: States can use PRAMS data to identify populations at greatest risk for maternal behaviors that have negative consequences for maternal and infant health and to develop policies and plan programs that target populations at high Although prevalence data cannot be used to identify causes or interventions to improve health outcomes, they do indicate the magnitude of disparities and identify populations that should be targeted for intervention. This report indicates a need for wider targeting than is often done. The results from this report can aid state and national agencies in creating more effective public health policies and programs. The data described in this report should serve as a baseline that states can use to measure the impact of policies and programs on eliminating these health disparities.

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