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Small Area Variation in Low Birthweight: Looking Beyond Socioeconomic Predictors

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The main objectives of this study were to determine the geographic distribution of low birthweight rates in London, Ontario and to identify small areas within the city that have low birthweight rates not adequately explained by the areas’ socioeconomic characteristics. The following socioeconomic variables were used in a weighted, ecological, multiple regression analysis: % unwed mothers, % teen mothers, % low income, % low education, % unemployment and % immigrants. The overall variation in low birthweight rates was statistically significant and largely, but not entirely, explained by the socioeconomic characteristics of the areas. Two out of 31 census tract clusters were identified as having low birthweight rates which were higher than would be expected based on their socioeconomic profile. This methodologic approach may interest health planners as it draws attention to local factors other than socioeconomic ones which may be important when developing local strategies for low birthweight prevention.


Les objectifs de notre étude étaient d’évaluer la répartition géographique des taux des nouveau-nés de faible poids à London, Ontario, et d’identifier de petits secteurs géographiques de la ville qui présentent des taux de nouveau-nés de faible poids que les caractéristiques socio-économiques ne suffisent pas à expliquer. Les variables socio-économiques suivantes ont été utilisées dans une analyse par régression multiple écologique et pondérée: % des mères célibataires, % des mères adolescentes, % lié au faible revenu; % lié au faible niveau de scolarité, % lié au chômage et % d’immigrants. Cette tendance générale était statistiquement significative et s’expliquait dans une large mesure, mais pas totalement, par les caractéristiques socio-économiques des secteurs géographiques. Sur les 31 groupages de secteurs de recensement, deux ont été identifiés comme ayant des taux de nouveau-nés de faible poids plus élevés que ce que l’on pourrait s’attendre de par leurs caractéristiques socio-économiques. Cette information pourrait servir à nos planificateurs en santé publique pour mettre au point des facteurs locals, autre que les facteurs socio-économiques, qui pourraient être importants dans le développement des stratégies locales de prévention des nouveau-nés de faible poids.

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Author information

Correspondence to Evelyn A. Crosse MSc.

Additional information

Financial support was received from the Middlesex-London Teaching Health Unit, London, Ontario.

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Crosse, E.A., Alder, R.J., Østbye, T. et al. Small Area Variation in Low Birthweight: Looking Beyond Socioeconomic Predictors. Can J Public Health 88, 57–61 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03403861

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