Maternal and infant health are significant public health concerns for two reasons. First, there is considerable interest in understanding and reducing disparities in these outcomes (Healthy People 2020), as well as the effects on these outcomes of both prenatal and preconception factors. Second, health status at birth reflects a major component of the health endowment of a child, which has a potentially crucial role in shaping later health and well-being across the life course. Despite the considerable interest in these topics, research has been hampered by the lack of appropriate data. In particular, few of the major longitudinal social and demographic surveys include vital records based data on gestational age, birth weight, pregnancy complications, and other key birth outcomes. Instead, this information is either retrospectively reported by mothers or is simply omitted. In this subproject, we will add critical prenatal and perinatal data needed to accomplish the scientific goal of the Wave V Program Project - to understand the early life precursors of chronic disease-thus creating a major new resource for studying the preconception determinants and life course consequences of maternal and infant health in a large, nationally representative cohort. Specifically, for each original Add Health respondent, and a subset of their children, we will obtain and link their birth records to the existing longitudinal data. The addition of birth records at Wave V will significantly enhance the value of the Add Health database, which currently spans four decades and three generations, by providing researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to examine the causes and consequences of health status at birth.
The specific aims of this subproject are as follows: 1) develop state-specific informed consent documents and procedures for all original Wave I respondents to search state-level databases for their birth records and the birth records of their biological children;2) pilot the consent collection and retrieval procedures for respondents and their biological children;3) retrieve the birth records of Add Health respondents and a subset of their biological children by accessing the vital records of all U.S. states, and by applying probabilistic matching algorithms to conduct the search and 4) construct, clean, link, and document a new Add Health Birth Records Database that will be made widely available to researchers, and to provide outreach and support to data users. The richness and depth of the resulting database will advance research on a number of important and timely topics, including preconception influences on adverse birth outcomes and the developmental origins of chronic disease, and lay the foundation for future studies of the parents and children of Add Health respondents.

Public Health Relevance

Gestational age, birth weight, and other measures of intrauterine, perinatal, and infant health have great public health significance both as leading health indicators and as potential predictors of health and well-being across the life course. By linking vital statistics birth records to five waves of longitudinal data, this subproject will add the critical prenatal and perinatal data needed to accomplish the scientific goal of the Add Health Wave V Program Project: to understand the early life precursors of chronic disease.

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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
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