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Maternal, Infant, Child, and Adolescent Health in Latin American Cities

Maternal, infant, child, and adolescent health outcomes often reveal the level of social development of a community, as these outcomes indicate whether that community has access to adequate healthcare, nutrition, sanitation, and social protections.

For example, infant mortality is one important indicator of health among mothers, infants, children, and adolescents being studied by the SALURBAL project. Infant mortality rates can reveal the overall health status of a population and level of social development in a society. Worldwide, infant mortality has fallen significantly since the 1950s. This reduction in infant deaths occurred due to global investments in cost-effective interventions such as improved access to vaccines, clean water, and births supported by skilled health professionals.

mom and daughter with birds

Despite this progress, 4.1 million infant deaths occurred in 2017 globally, approximately 152,000 of which occurred in Latin America. Between 1955 and 2005, infant mortality in Latin America has steadily declined, but since 2005, reductions in preventable infant deaths have stalled. Additionally, this regional statistic hides high rates of infant mortality within countries and in some cities in the region.

Many of these deaths are avoidable, caused by vaccine-preventable diseases, infectious disease occurring due to lack of access to hygiene and sanitation, lack of access to appropriate care during pregnancy and birth, and lack of access to appropriate medical treatments such as antibiotics.

Other important indicators of maternal, infant, child, and adolescent health include low birth weight, pre-term birth, maternal mortality, rate of c-section births, and adolescent pregnancy and birth outcomes, among others.


The SALURBAL project’s MAPECA (maternal, perinatal, child, and adolescent health) working group is working to generate evidence about urban determinants of health inequalities among women, children, and youth in Latin American cities to inform decision-making.


  • Studies inequalities in maternal, child, and youth health in Latin American urban environment
  • Disseminates results for evidence translation into decision-making, towards more equitable cities for all people of across their life course
  • Creates partnerships to help dissemination and further research



The goal of this study is to examine the impact of expansions of paid maternity and paternity leave on the health of infants and adults in 366 cities from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Peru.

These countries have recently implemented extensions in days of paternity and maternity leave that are different across countries and within countries across time. Parental leave policies are considered to contribute to gender equity issues for several reasons.

  • These policies often intend to secure both women’s income during leave and their return to work while promoting mother and infant well-being.
  • These policies can also further promote gender equity by facilitating greater participation of fathers in childcare and of mothers in the labor market.
  • These policies can facilitate stronger bonds between parents and children

maternal and infant mortality infographic

This study will use data from the SALURBAL project in a longitudinal design across the period of 2009-2019. Studying these policies in Latin America will help inform paid leave policies in the US, and their impact on high maternal mortality and inequities in infant mortality and adult life expectancy by socioeconomic status and race, particularly in urban environments.

This research project will be led by Ana Ortigoza, MD, PhD, MPH, MS, Senior Research Scientist II at the Urban Health Collaborative, and Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, Dean of the Dornsife School of Public Health and Director, Urban Health Collaborative and will draw on the expertise of several investigators of the SALURBAL- MAPECA group. This work is being funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.