Refugees and Health

A recent book, “War and the Health of Nations“,  by Zaryab Iqbal (Political Science, Penn State) takes a look at the associations between national health statistics and the presence and duration of war.


Chapter 8 explores the topic of forced migration and population health, though with a novel approach. Instead of exploring the ways that forced displacement by war is associated with health in refugees themselves, Iqbal looked at whether an influx of refugees affected overall health statistics in the host country. Utilizing aggregate health data from the World Bank and the number of refugees entering a state in a given year, she tested for associations between the two while accounting for multiple covariates (presence and duration of conflict, GDP, population size, openness to trade, and how democratic/autocratic a country is).

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Shrinking babies

Harvard researchers are reporting in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology that the average birth weight in the U.S. has actually dropped over the past 15 years. The study looked at more than 36 million full-term births between 1990 and 2005. After controlling for confounding variables, it was found that birth weight had decreased by 52 grams. This trend ran counter to that found previously, which was that birth weights had been steadily increasing over the last century. A secondary analysis suggested that the drop was not due to a change in maternal demographics, as the trend was also found in a subset of white, well-educated non-smoking women as well.

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