According to an article in Journal of Women’s Health, a peer reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, pregnancy outcomes could be improved, and racial differences in infant mortality reduced, by improving access to health care for minority women of childbearing age.

Non-Hispanic whites have significantly lower infant mortality rates than non-Hispanic blacks and other minorities.

The authors believe that in order to reduce racial disparities in reproductive health outcomes, there needs to better preconception health care for women. Preconception health care is care of women of childbearing age before getting pregnant so that the women and babies are as healthy as possible during pregnancy.

Obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking are behavioral risk factors that should be reduced. Better availability to preventive care and preconception and reproductive counseling should also be improved.

Clark Denny, Ph.D. and colleagues, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, estimated the prevalence of five risk factors for negative pregnancy outcomes of over 54,600 women between the ages of 18 and 44. The five risk factors included smoking, at-risk drinking, diabetes, obesity, and frequent mental distress.

Their article “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Preconception Risk Factors and Preconcepy tion Care” shows that more than half of the women had at least one risk factor and almost 20 percent of women had two or more. Obesity was the most common risk factor reported by the participants (23.4 percent), and diabetes was the least reported (5.8 percent).

An accompanying Editorial by Anne Dunlop, MD, MPH and Darcie Everett, MD, MPH, Emory University School of Medicine, “Forthcoming Changes in Healthcare Financing and Delivery Offer Opportunities for Reducing Racial Disparities in Risks to Reproductive Health”, emphasize changes in health care policy, financing, and delivery that emphasize prevention, expand coverage, and improve access to preconception and reproductive health care for lower-income Americans.

Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women’s Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, and President of the Academy of Women’s Health said, “Clearly, there is a need for better preconception health care, particularly among high-risk groups, in order to improve pregnancy outcomes and reduce racial disparities.”

Written by Sarah Glynn