Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father involvement in pregnancy could reduce infant mortality (?)

The usual confusion of cause and effect. The "particularly if the infant is black" highlights that. A black father who sticks around is of unusual high quality, almost certainly middle class. And middle class people are healthier and pass that on to their children genetically. It's the man's genes, not his presence at the birth, that creates healthier babies

Studies have shown fathers who are active in their children's upbringing can significantly benefit their children's early development, academic achievement and well being. Now, a new study by University of South Florida researchers suggests that a father's involvement before his child is born may play an important role in preventing death during the first year of life - particularly if the infant is black.

The USF team sought to evaluate whether the absence of fathers during pregnancy contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in infant survival and health. Their findings were recently reported online in the Journal of Community Health.

"Our study suggests that lack of paternal involvement during pregnancy is an important and potentially modifiable risk factor for infant mortality," concluded the study's lead author Amina Alio, PhD, research assistant professor of community and family health at the USF College of Public Health. "A significant proportion of infant deaths could be prevented if fathers were to become more involved."

The researchers examined the records of all births in Florida from 1998 to 2005 - more than 1.39 million live births. Father involvement was defined by the presence of the father's name on the infant's birth certificate. While this measure does not assess the extent or quality of a father's involvement during pregnancy, other studies have established a link between paternal information on a birth record and prenatal paternal involvement.

Among the study's findings:

* Infants with absent fathers were more likely to be born with lower birth weights, to be preterm and small for gestational age.

* Regardless of race or ethnicity, the neonatal death rate of father-absent infants was nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved fathers.

* The risk of poor birth outcomes was highest for infants born to black women whose babies' fathers were absent during their pregnancies. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, these babies were seven times more likely to die in infancy than babies born to Hispanic and white women in the same situation.

* Obstetric complications contributing to premature births, such as anemia, chronic high blood pressure, eclampsia and placental abruption, were more prevalent among women whose babies' fathers were absent during pregnancy.

* Expectant mothers in the father-absent group tended to be younger, more educated, more likely to never have given birth, more likely to be black, and had a higher percentage of risk factors like smoking and inadequate prenatal care than mothers in the father-involved group.

Paternal support may decrease the mother's emotional stress, which has been linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, or promote healthy prenatal behavior, Dr. Alio suggested. For instance, some studies, including USF's, indicate that pregnant women with absent partners are more likely to report smoking during pregnancy and get inadequate prenatal care. Barriers to expectant fathers' involvement in the lives of their pregnant partners, including issues like unemployment, relationship status, and participation in prenatal visits, must be examined to increase the role of men during pregnancy, she said.

Improving the involvement of expectant fathers holds promise for reducing costly medical treatments for the complications of premature births as well as reducing infant mortality rates, particularly in black communities, Dr. Alio said. "When fathers are involved, children thrive in school and in their development. So, it should be no surprise that when fathers are present in the lives of pregnant mothers, babies fare much better."


'Health' foods that will rot your teeth


SNACKS perceived as healthy, including some muesli bars and orange juices, are just as likely to rot your teeth as lollies [candies] and fizzy drinks.

Consumer advocate Choice and the Australian Dental Association's Victorian branch compared the sugar content and acidity of 85 processed foods and drinks and their potential for tooth decay. While fizzy drinks and lollies were unsurprisingly considered high risk, energy drinks such as Red Bull and V Energy, Uncle Tobys apricot muesli bars and Golden Circle Orange Juice were among the worst offenders.

Choice spokesman Brad Schmitt said many of the poor performers were commonly found in student lunch boxes.

Australian Dental Association oral health committee chairwoman Dr Philippa Sawyer said the review results highlighted why tooth decay rates were sky-rocketing. "People don't necessarily understand what causes tooth decay," she said. "We've seen a rapid increase in the tooth decay rate of young children in particular and it's because they snack throughout the day, rather than having the recommended three meals and two snacks."

Nutrition Professionals Australia dietitian Tania Ferraretto said many fruits also contained sugar and were acidic, so potentially a risk to teeth, but should not be avoided. "Foods should always be judged on nutritional value and if you brush your teeth twice a day, then you're on track to avoiding tooth decay," she said.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Kate Carnell said the industry had produced many new low-sugar, fat and salt alternatives in recent years.

A Nestle spokeswoman said the sugar level in Uncle Tobys Apricot Chew Muesli Bar was only seven per cent of the recommended daily intake and the product contained whole grains and fibre, making a "positive contribution" to diet.

A Golden Circle spokeswoman said a moderate intake of fruit juice could be considered as a serve of fruit, while drinking through a straw and drinking juice with a meal could reduce the impact of acid in drinks.


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