A new study out of the University of Manitoba shows children’s health outcomes in the province can be closely predicted by the income bracket they grow up in.
Researchers used data points from census data — such as unemployment rates, high school completion and average household income — broken down by postal code and tested it against anonymous children’s health data by neighbourhood between 2010 and 2015.
Health outcomes included premature birth, low birth weight, infant and neonatal mortality, hospitalization and teen pregnancy.
The study shows there are “significant inequalities” between neighbourhoods based on socioeconomic status in 19 of 20 health outcomes.
In 16 of the 19 cases, income level alone was enough to predict inequalities.
For example, hospitalization and infant mortality rates were more than double and teen pregnancy rates 10 times higher in the lowest-income neighbourhoods compared to the highest.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Atul Sharma, assistant professor of pediatrics and child health at the U of M’s Max Rady College of Medicine, says in a news release that researchers were surprised by how closely income level alone predicted health disadvantages in youth.
“In adults, it’s been found that more nuanced, multidimensional indexes — not just income — are needed to capture the relationships between socioeconomic status and health outcomes,” Sharma says.
Furthermore, the study concludes that the type of tools used to predict adults’ health outcomes may not be as effective for children.
The researchers hope their findings will be used to inform health-care policy.
The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba funded the study and collaborated with scientists from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the U of M. It was published in the journal Pediatric Research.