Mac study has Code Red roots

By STEVE BUIST

A team of McMaster University researchers has received a $40,000 grant from the federal government for a project that was inspired by The Spectator’s award-winning Code Red series.

Titled Do Neighbourhood Characteristics Influence Maternal Health Disparities?, the one-year study will look at the factors that could be responsible for variations in the health of pregnant moms and their babies across Hamilton neighbourhoods.

The Code Red mapping project showed strong connections between health and poverty in Hamilton. The seven-day series published in April 2010 found huge differences in health outcomes between Hamilton’s best and worst neighbourhoods.

The study was prompted by information in the Code Red series that showed excessive rates of low birth weight babies in a number of Hamilton neighbourhoods.

“I think that really brought to light the whole notion of the potential for neighbourhood influences on reproductive health outcomes, ” said Wendy Sword, a professor in McMaster’s School of Nursing and the study’s lead investigator.

“There hasn’t really been a lot of work done in that area, ” Sword added. “It’s a glimpse into what could be contributing to disparities and what the range of disparities could be.”

Sword has long been interested in maternal and child health during and right after pregnancy, particularly with women who are vulnerable and at risk for poor outcomes.

“Most of those risks are factors outside of their control and really are a reflection of their circumstances, ” said Sword.

“Is that related to neighbourhood or do we also need to begin to think of other determinants of health and create a more holistic picture? I think it’s important for us to understand what’s happening in those communities to fully understand the picture so we know what to do next, ” she added.

The study, which begins in the fall, was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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