Objective: To examine how the demographic and other population changes affected birth and obstetric outcomes in Louisiana, and the effect of the hurricane on racial disparities in these outcomes.
Methods: Vital statistics data were used to compare the incidence of low birth weight (LBW) (<2500 g), preterm birth (PTB) (37 weeks' gestation), cesarean section, and inadequate prenatal care (as measured by the Kotelchuck index), in the 2 years after Katrina compared to the 2 years before, for the state as a whole, region 1 (the area around New Orleans), and Orleans Parish (New Orleans). Logistic models were used to adjust for covariates.
Results: After adjustment, rates of LBW rose for the state, but preterm birth did not. In region 1 and Orleans Parish, rates of LBW and PTB remained constant or fell. These patterns were all strongest in African American women. Rates of cesarean section and inadequate prenatal care rose. Racial disparities in birth outcomes remained constant or were reduced.
Conclusions: Although risk of LBW/PTB remained higher in African Americans, the storm does not appear to have exacerbated health disparities, nor did population shifts explain the changes in birth and obstetric outcomes.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:S39-S45)