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Contextual Analysis, Part 1: A Tool for Understanding Disparities in Preterm Birth

Wednesday, May 16, 2007, 2:00-3:00 p.m., ET

Overview | Presenter Information | Agenda | Resources | Archive


Research focusing on individual-level factors has yielded incomplete explanations for the nation's rising preterm birth rate, relatively high infant mortality rate as compared to other industrialized countries, and wide racial disparities in infant mortality and preterm birth. For this reason, new attention is being focused on exploring alternative explanations that relate not to individual characteristics alone, but rather include contextual, or neighborhood, characteristics.

In line with its mission to reduce infant mortality, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) in the Health Resources and Services Administration is supporting a team of university-based researchers to study the role of contextual characteristics in preterm birth and other related perinatal and birth outcomes. As part of their work with MCHB, the researchers have developed a three-part DataSpeak series intended to provide public health professionals with background and knowledge of concepts and statistical analysis techniques to begin developing and adapting the approach to their specific States and communities.

This first program in the series will present an overview of contextual analysis, including discussion of how neighborhoods are defined, what sources of data are available at the neighborhood level, how neighborhood conditions can affect health, what scientific evidence there is to support a contextual approach, and what challenges face investigators in this field of work.

Other programs in the series are as follows:

  • The second program in the series, to be presented on June 6, will describe the multilevel analysis technique, its use with hypothetical neighborhood preterm birth data, and the interpretation of the statistical results.
  • The third program in the series, to be broadcast on July 11, will include real-world examples of the analyses from the research sites funded by MCHB, the resources needed to implement these types of analyses, and the varied potential uses of multilevel modeling other than preterm birth and low birth weight outcomes.