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Back To On Campus Home April 29, 2005 Volume 31, Issue 13 Home


Health of Mexican American children focus of UT Austin study

Dr. Yolanda C. Padilla, associate professor of social work, has received a three-year, $750,000 grant to study why Mexican American children experience disproportionately poorer health than other ethnic groups.

Padilla’s research, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, involves an analysis of racial and ethnic disparities in child health and development with a focus on Mexican American children from birth to age 5. Data for the study will be drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which includes a large sample of Latino families.

Pat Budd examining child. This child is being examined at the Children's Wellness Center by School of Nursing Project Director Pat Budd.

The project involves collaborators among the fields of sociology, psychology and child development and health economics at UT Austin and Columbia University.

Research shows that in spite of the highly favorable birth outcomes among Mexican Americans, Mexican American children experience disproportionately higher rates of health and developmental deficiencies during their early years.

“Research on the link between conditions during pregnancy and early childhood, which may provide some insight about this unexpected health trajectory, is virtually non-existent,” Padilla said.

The availability of the Fragile Families data allows the researchers to study a longitudinal data set using growth curve models to identify differences in child health trajectories. They will look at socioeconomic characteristics and material hardship, immigration history, neighborhood and home environment, access to health and public assistance and informal social support, and parental health behaviors.

The significance of gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that affect child health and development outcomes in the Mexican American population is underscored in the National Institutes of Health Strategic Research Plan to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities, 2002-2006 (Office of Research on Minority Health), said Padilla. The report concluded that as a result of very high poverty rates, Hispanic children experience a disproportionate array of health problems and are also at greater risk for developmental and learning delays, as well as social, emotional and behavioral problems.