Ginny Garcia-Alexander from Portland State University and her colleagues at the University of Texas at San Antonio discovered that infant mortality rates are higher in areas with higher proportions of conservative Protestants, especially fundamentalists. The study was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion in May.
The study discovered that areas with more mainline Protestants and Catholics had better health outcomes during labor. The study’s findings are supported by previous research that discovered Catholics and mainline Protestants are more concerned with the well-being of one’s community, or civic-minded. Meanwhile, conservative Protestants, fundamentalists, and Pentecostals tend to be insular and are more likely to reject science and health-related courses.
Garcia-Alexander said that the findings suggest that there are things that individuals can do for their communities for better health outcomes.
“…To the extent that people who belong to religious organizations are aware of that, knowing that you are a communicator of health information, that can be a precious way to harness the power of the group and the community to communicate effective practices for infant health and public health interventions,” she added.
For the work, Garcia-Alexander, the lead-author of the study, used the data from 1990 to 2010 to analyze the influence of religion on postneonatal infant mortality rates, or the number of deaths from four weeks through the first year.
Garcia-Alexander found out from the data that the leading cause of infant mortality in the first 28 days is congenital disabilities, which is possibly influenced by advances in medical knowledge and technology. The factors that influenced deaths in the first 11 months are external factors, such as poverty, lack of insurance, social support networks and religion.
The study suggests that efforts should be made to implement prenatal and neonatal health promotion programs within congregations. Furthermore, the research indicates that the programs can be promoted as a “means of caring for mothers, the unborn and newborns” in conservative groups where science is viewed with suspicion.