All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Belinda Needham

Advisory Committee Members

Mark Lagory

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Using a human ecological model of health, preconception diet and physical activity level were hypothesized to mediate the association between neighborhood disadvantage and disorder and birth weight. It was also hypothesized that these factors would mediate the association between neighborhood disadvantage and disorder and preterm birth. Secondary data analyses were conducted using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The final analytic sample consisted of 523 adolescent and young adult mothers giving singleton live births between 1997 and 1998. The primary dependent variables were birth weight (grams) and gestational age (weeks). An index of various census tract-level indicators was created to capture neighborhood disadvantage, while individual-level perceptions of neighborhood conditions and safety were used to assess neighborhood disorder. Neighborhood disadvantage was negatively associated with birth weight. After controlling for race, the coefficient for neighborhood disadvantage was no longer statistically significant. Compared to those who were White or Other race, on average, Blacks had birth weights that were 141.76 grams lighter. Controlling for individual-level race, an increase in the proportion of Blacks in the census tract, a measure of neighborhood disadvantage, was associated with a decrease in gestational age. No evidence was found for the mediation hypotheses. To the author's knowledge, this is the first study examining diet and physical activity as possible behavioral pathways between the neighborhood context and birth outcomes. This study may have implications for intervention efforts aimed at improving the health of women of childbearing age, as well as birth outcomes and the infant mortality rate in the United States.



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