Are Latinas Having Healthier Babies Than Their White Counterparts?

Are Latinas Having Healthier Babies Than Their White Counterparts?

A look into the Latina paradox.
Mahbuba
Mahbuba
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The Latina Paradox

Are Latinas Having Healthier Babies Than Their White Counterparts?: A Closer Look into the Latina Paradox

What is it?

The Latina paradox, which is an ancillary of the Latino-health paradox, is the epidemiological observation that rates of low birth weight, infant mortality, premature babies, and pregnancy complications are lower among Latinas (mothers born in Mexico and a few other immigrant sending countries) when compared to their white counterparts and other immigrant populations in the US. This trend occurs despite Latina immigrant mothers’ “disadvantaged risk profiles,” which include low levels of education, low income, and poor access to prenatal care, all of which are strongly associated with birth complications. In fact, according to statistics published in the American Journal of Public health (AJPH), in the year of 2002, the US Latino population had a low-birthweight incidence of 6.5 percent, whereas the incidence was much higher among non-Latino Whites and African Americans, 6.9 percent and 13.4 percent respectively. Such statistics and others provide further evidence that such a paradox exists. Surprisingly, greater assimilation into the US health care system is actually correlated with a decline in this paradox. The“Latina paradox” is most evident among Mexican-born women. But why does such a trend exist?

Explaining the Paradox

Truly Paradoxical: Though varying theories have been posited about the paradox, some questioning its validity and many others vehemently trying to assess why it exists, no one theory has garnered an overwhelming amount of support. Thus, it is safe to say, more work needs to be done in solving this paradox.

The Healthy Migrant Hypothesis: The healthy migrant hypothesis centers around evidence that suggests migrants from other countries that come into the US tend to be healthier than their fellow countrymen to begin with. As a result, it can be said that the healthiest Latinos migrate to the United States in the first place and thus they give rise to healthier babies. Though this hypothesis is always considered with the Latina paradox, it does have its flaws. For one, this hypothesis does not account for why the trend seen in the Latina paradox is not seen among other immigrant groups. Why aren't lower rates of pregnancy complications present among other immigrant groups, such as Asians or Africans as well, both of whom are also considered in the healthy migrant hypothesis.

Defining the Latino Identity: According to the Huffington Post, skeptics of the Latina paradox have also considered the possibility that existence of this paradox is a result of a statistical error due to the vast diversity of the Latino population and not much more than that. The Latino population, for example, encompasses everyone from Mexican Americans to Puerto-Rican Americans alike. Thus, many argue that issues that exist with self-identifying as a Latino American have resulted in the statistical error that is the Latina paradox. However, this perspective is rather difficult to bear, because the Latina paradox has been observed many times and in many places since its initial conception and thus it has becomes less likely that it is a result of a statistical error from incorrect identification.

Marianismo: The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) has also examined marianismo, an archetype of womanhood that has existed in Mexican culture for some time, as a possible contributor to the existence of the Latina paradox. Marianismo espouses ideals of femininity and womanhood that are largely based on Catholic ideals. According to the AJPH, aspects of marianismo that potentially explain the existence of the Latina paradox are "strong cultural support for maternity, healthy traditional dietary practices, and the norm of selfless devotion"(AJPH). These ideals serve as protective factors in pregnancies and can be seen as contributing to the healthier pregnancy outcomes that are characteristic of the Latina Paradox.

Aspiration: In the anthropological work "Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers", a book investigating why the Latina paradox exists, Alyshia Galvez highlights the theme of “aspiracion[aspiration]” . She uses "aspiration" to explore the underlying causes of the Latina paradox. “Aspiracion” is a Spanish verb that aptly describes the sentiments Latina women feel towards their migration to the US, their pregnancy, and their knowledge of prenatal care. The term encapsulates how these women see themselves as agents of upwards mobility for their family, a role they believe is tied to both successful migration to the US and the delivery of healthy children. Hence, these women view their pregnancies as blessings and are confident in their knowledge about what is best for their babies. To Galvez, Latina women's positive perspective on their pregnancy and unwavering faith in their own ability to manage their pregnancy fill the gap created by poor access to prenatal care and correspondingly contribute to the Latina paradox.

Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer and other Social Support: Throughout her book, Galvez also discusses the prominent role of kinship relationships, especially female kinship relationships, in shaping the pregnancy experiences and outcomes of Mexican women in Mexico and in America soon after their migration. Such relationships almost always involve mothers, sisters, and especially the mothers of the pregnant woman's husband. Galvez argues that such relationships contribute to the Latina paradox. For example, mothers of the woman themselves or of the woman's significant other transmit knowledge about best foods for pregnant mothers, prenatal care practices, and advice about general wellbeing to their pregnant daughters, often even after their daughters have migrated to the US. This is known as intergenerational knowledge transfer and is considered to be an important contributor to the Latina paradox. As Galvez notes, Latina women enjoy these strong kinship relationships both during and after their pregnancies, which result in multiple sources of advice for taking care of oneself and her baby throughout the process. Thus, these increased sources of care and support afforded by the cultural and social resources of Latinas, Galvez notes, likely counteracts poor prenatal care and contributes to the Latina paradox. Other social support, such as from the community as a whole, is also seen among Latinas in their home countries and in the US and is further believed to contribute to the paradox.


Why Should We Care?

Increasing efficiency and outcomes of American prenatal care: Pregnancies of other immigrant populations and that of white populations exhibit higher rates of low birth-weight babies and pregnancy complications compared to that of Latinas. This is despite the fact that Latinas have poor access to prenatal care and even when access is fair, they do not use prenatal care as often as other populations. Thus, perhaps a closer investigation of Latina prenatal care usage, including their use of the American model and also other cultural factors that take the place of prenatal care, should be conducted. The knowledge from such an investigation can then be used to adjust the American prenatal care system to lead to better pregnancy outcomes for all women. Considering the contribution of strong relationships to the Latina paradox, this adjustment of prenatal care based on the model used by Latina women may even lead to lower costs for the American healthcare system as it would focus on relationships instead of more time in the hospital or more time with expensive equipment, tests, or treatment.

Rising Beyond the Rhetoric that Providing Prenatal Care to Undocumented Immigrants Would be Too Costly: According to Undocumentedpatients.org, access to prenatal care for women who are undocumented immigrants differs drastically across the country, because of state-level policies and interpretations. Thus, it is important to consider extending prenatal care to undocumented Latina immigrants at a more federal level, especially because costs for such programs may not be as high as certain rhetoric would suggest. After all, Latinas as a group have already shown that they are smart connoisseurs of prenatal care, using it more efficiently than other groups to achieve better pregnancy outcomes.



Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...

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Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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