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Racial and Ethnic Disparity on Low Birth Weight in Syracuse, NY


Low birth weight is a leading cause of infant mortality. Unfortunately, despite declining rates of infant mortality, racial and ethnic disparities in both low birth weight and infant mortality rates persist. In this teaching case, a clinical vignette is used to draw attention to this public health priority in Syracuse, NY.

Students learn essential epidemiological skills such as identifying limitations of sources of data and calculating relative risks, using the example of low birth weight. In performing these skills, students also identify etiologies for such disparity. Finally, students discuss interventions that, when implemented, may decrease infant mortality rates.


  • Calculate infant mortality rates
  • Compare African American and White infant mortality rates in a given population and contrast these figures to national standards
  • Understand sources and limitations of data
  • Identify possible etiologies for racial/ethnic disparities
  • Apply relative risk and population attributable risk
  • Critically appraise medical literature