(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today issued a final report evaluating adverse birth outcomes (ABOs) in the Tri County Health District (TCHD), which covers Daggett, Duchesne, and Uintah counties. The TCHD requested the analysis last year after residents in the area reported a perceived increase in the number of stillbirths and infant deaths in the area.
UDOH investigators collected birth records from 1991-2013 to determine if the rate of ABOs in the Tri County area was higher than the rate experienced in the rest of the state. The ABOs included in the study were low-birth weight, premature birth, small-for-gestational age, infant deaths, and stillbirths.
Statewide, approximately 16 percent of all pregnancies result in an ABO each year. In the TCHD area, the study found approximately 20 percent of pregnancies each year resulted in an ABO. However, when the study controlled for risk factors that can increase the likelihood of an ABO, such as teen pregnancy, maternal weight, race and ethnicity, maternal use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs, and maternal chronic health conditions, there was no evidence that the overall rate of ABOs in TCHD was higher than in other parts of the state.
The study did reveal periodic, increased risk for some ABOs, including:
• The number of stillbirths exceeded the state average in the final time period of the study, further analysis will be needed to determine if this elevation is an isolated variation,
• Small-for-gestational age births were elevated in almost all time periods, and significantly elevated in some,
• The study also revealed several important risk factors that can lead to poor birth outcomes are more common in Tri County than in the rest of the state (namely, tobacco use and diabetes among expectant mothers).
While the statistical differences for these specific outcomes were small, the overall trend does present reason for concern.
“Although the statistical differences between the TriCounty area and the state are minimal when it comes to adverse health outcomes, there are obviously patterns that raise some concerns for public health locally,” said TCHD Executive Director Jordan Mathis. “It is important that we take measures to better understand these patterns through continued monitoring and evaluation. However, many of the risk factors that contribute to ABOs are controllable, and the department will maintain its efforts to educate and promote programs we know can have a positive impact on reducing the risk for ABOs. We look forward to working with the community to determine what the next steps should be in helping to ensure babies born in the Uintah Basin are as healthy as possible.”
While the report did not attempt to link any ABOs to specific causes, the most important risk factors that typically lead to an ABO include chronic health conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, tobacco use, and inadequate prenatal care.
The UDOH committed to revisit the study in another two years to help better understand and monitor the situation. The full report is available online at http://health.utah.gov/enviroepi/appletree/TriCountyABO.
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Utah Department of Health
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232 (m) 801-560-4649
Tri County Health Department