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Proactive Policing May Contribute to the Racial Gap in Preterm Births

illustration of two nurses with two new babies

February 15, 2023

Proactive policing, such as pedestrian and traffic stops, is a crime prevention tactic that relies on police officer discretion to stop and search individuals they consider suspicious.

A recently study published in the American Journal of Public Health, looking at proactive policing and preterm birth rates in New Orleans, shows that Black residents living in neighborhoods experiencing high levels of proactive policing were about three times as likely to give birth preterm (before 37 weeks) as their white neighbors.

“Police stops perpetuate structural racism that pervades many areas of our criminal legal system and has played out alongside decades of disinvestment in many Black and brown communities across the United States,” said lead author Jackie Jahn, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Dornsife School of Public Health and the Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Populations Health Equity at Dornsife.

“We’re still uncovering the depth of the effects of redlining and racism, among other practices that continue to hurt the physical and financial health of residents in these neighborhoods,” added Jahn.

The NIH-supported study uses uniquely available data on policing — made publicly available by the New Orleans police department, which is currently under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to address a pattern of civil rights violations.

In the study, researchers looked at preterm birth using vital statistics data, which they linked with numbers on proactive policing from New Orleans Police Department field reports, and census data from the 5-year American Community Survey.

Read the full news article about the study on the Drexel News website: Proactive Policing May Contribute to the Racial Gap in Preterm Births