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Associations between Parental Engagement in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Neighborhood-level Socioeconomic Status.

OBJECTIVES: 1) To determine the effect of neighborhood-level socioeconomic status (SES), which considers the social and physical environment where a person lives, on parental engagement in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); 2) To compare the relationships between parental engagement and individual versus neighborhood-level measures of SES.

STUDY DESIGN: In this cohort study, parents (n=45) of premature neonates ≤ 34 weeks gestation were assessed at two and six weeks after birth from December 2017 to October 2019. Neighborhood-level SES was determined using census data per the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs' methodology, and parents self-reported their education level as an individual-level measure of SES. Data on frequency of engagement in NICU activities, including telephone updates, visitation, providing expressed breastmilk, and participating in kangaroo care, were collected from the electronic medical record. Parent psychosocial factors were assessed using validated surveys. Statistical analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test, t-test, and logistic regression.

RESULTS: In multivariate regression analysis, disadvantaged neighborhood-level SES was associated with decreased odds of kangaroo care (OR 0.16, 95% CI (0.03- 0.89)) and visitation (OR 0.14, 95% CI (0.02-0.87)), while lower individual-level SES was not significantly associated with kangaroo care, visiting, calling, or pumping (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Parental engagement was more consistently and significantly associated with neighborhood-level SES than with individual-level SES. Therefore, neighborhood-level SES measures may be more explanatory than individual-level SES measures. Further studies and targeted interventions are needed to address disparities in the frequency of kangaroo care and visitation according to SES.

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