Explaining the Geography of Infant Health

Explaining the Geography of Infant Health

Andrew Curtis (Louisiana State University, USA) and Michael Leitner (Louisiana State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-756-0.ch001


During a seminar presentation to the Geography and Anthropology Faculty at Louisiana State University, a series of summary statistics were presented concerning the racial inequality in infant health outcomes in Baton Rouge. The numbers were quite startling, spurring one colleague to question the accuracy of the findings, as, in their words, “that would put us at developing world levels.” This sentiment was echoed by a National Science Foundation reviewer (I suspect from the United Kingdom) who read one of our proposals and expressed disbelief. The United States is a modern developed country, and yet in geographical pockets the infant mortality rate is alarmingly high. For some neighborhoods, between 1996 and 1998, in East Baton Rouge Parish the infant mortality rate was consistently above 40/1,000, reaching its highest rate in 1998 of 70/1,000. This means if 1,000 babies were born in this 0.25-mile neighborhood, 70 would die in the first year of life. Obviously, there is a problem. This book will investigate a host of ways to consider, and hopefully move towards solving, problems such as these using a Geographic Information System (GIS). In this chapter we will provide an introduction to the main themes of the book, namely negative pregnancy outcomes and the role geography and geographic techniques can play in their improvement.

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