Multiple studies are published in our journal and others noting the disparities in outcomes for infants born to disadvantaged women. This week, we share a study by Brownell et al. (peds.2015-2992) performed from 2003-2010 in Manitoba, Canada that describes what happens in terms of birth outcomes when low-income pregnant women are provided an unconditional income supplement compared to low-income mothers who did not get the supplement.
Infant data was collected on birth weight, gestation age and size, Apgars, breastfeeding, and hospital length of stay and readmission. Methods were used to control for confounding. The results are quite impressive and show substantive reductions in low birth weight, preterm birth, small gestational size and increases in breastfeeding and larger gestational size as a result of giving women the unconditional supplemental income funding.
So how did the women use the funding to promote such positive outcomes? Are these outcomes really attributable to the stipends awarded? Clearly there are questions one has upon reading this study, and to help shed light on this study and raise some possible limitations, health policy expert and pediatrician Dr. Andrew Racine provides an accompanying commentary (peds.2015-4673) that needs to be read after reading this study.
We hope that future work will attempt to duplicate the findings in Manitoba and answer Dr. Racine’s concerns regarding the generalizability and the validity of the findings which for the low-income families of Manitoba appears to indicate the use of unconditional income supplements is well worth considering to improve high-risk birth outcomes.