Examining Health Of Women Along Mexico-US Border

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A new study in the October issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a CDC journal, examined rates of unplanned pregnancies, prenatal care and other reproductive health factors among women living in Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The Brownsville-Matamoros Sister City Project for Women's Health is based on surveys of about 1,000 women in hospital maternity wards in both cities. The surveys were conducted in 2005 over a 12-week period.

Jill McDonald, a senior epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Reproductive Health, said, "This was an attempt to see if data could be collected that really represented what was happening at the border. And we tried to do it in one set of sister cities, Matamoros and Cameron County, with the idea that if it worked there maybe it could be replicated in other sister cities up and down the border."

Researchers found that nearly half of the pregnancies in women living in either city were unplanned and that roughly one-third occurred in women younger than age 20. About 40% of the unplanned pregnancies occurred while the women were using some form of birth control, according to the study.

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Nearly all of the women in the study received some prenatal care, but women in Brownsville were more likely to see a doctor during the first trimester. Brownsville women also more likely to have had a Pap test and an HIV test. Women in Matamoros were more likely than women in Brownsville to receive postpartum contraception counseling during their prenatal care visits, and were four more times more likely than women in Brownsville to begin breastfeeding at the hospital. Matamoros women also were more likely to be insured.

Jorge Hernandez -- sub-director for health quality and education with the Tamaulipas Secretariat of Health, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study -- noted that in Mexico "social factors, such as lack of information available through mass media, may have influenced behavior related to the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy and makes us question whether the public health strategies we have implemented can be improved."

Brian Castrucci of the Texas Department of State Health Services, who was a part of the study, said some of the differences between the two groups of women can be attributed to differences in policies between Mexico and the U.S. He added, "Almost every piece of reproductive health is based on planned pregnancies. Take folic acid, get prenatal care, be healthy before you get pregnant -- all of that is based on a planned model. But we're seeing this large percentage of folks who are having unplanned pregnancies. So again there's a great opportunity for binational collaboration around a topic that has some significant health impacts" (Finley, San Antonio Express-News, 10/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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