Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Low-Grade Inflammation in Young Children
About the Presentation
Racial/ethnic disparities in health have long persisted and reducing them is a public health priority in the U.S. However, the underlying biosocial processes that produce these disparities are poorly understood. We advance health disparities research by assessing racial/ethnic differences in low-grade inflammation, a physiological marker of chronic stress exposure, in young children. In addition to children’s race/ethnicity, we incorporate parental nativity to provide a more nuanced understanding of racial/ethnic differences in inflammation. Using nationally-representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we find increased risk for low-grade inflammation among Hispanic and African American compared with white children (ages 2-10 years). The risk of low-grade inflammation appears to be stronger for Mexican American and African American children with a foreign-born than U.S.-born parent. Low-SES children are also at greater risk for low-grade inflammation, but SES and other family structural conditions do not fully explain the racial/ethnic and parent nativity differences in inflammation. This suggests the need to understand social and psychological challenges faced by Hispanic and African American children, particularly those with a foreign-born parent, if we are to make further progress reducing health disparities over the life course.
About the Speaker
Dr. Schmeer is a sociologist and demographer whose research aims to improve our understanding of health and nutritional inequalities across settings. Specifically, Dr. Schmeer’s research focuses on how family and household contexts shape maternal and child health and well-being in Latin America and among disadvantaged populations in the U.S. She is currently working with biological anthropologists to collect and analyze data on family contexts, food insecurity and maternal/child health in Nicaragua, which includes biomarkers of nutrition and immune function in mothers and their young children. Dr. Schmeer is also the PI of an NIH K01 grant to study how children’s physiological systems are impacted by chronic stress and the implications for their health and development.
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